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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 11, Number 6 June 2011 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Bethany's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf
Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf Clark's Bookshelf
Daniel's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf
Gorden's Bookshelf Harwood's Bookshelf Henry's Bookshelf
Joanne's Bookshelf Karlene's Bookshelf Karyn's Bookshelf
Katherine's Bookshelf Kaye's Bookshelf Logan's Bookshelf
Margaret's Bookshelf Mayra's Bookshelf Molly's Bookshelf
Nicole's Bookshelf Paul's Bookshelf Richard's Bookshelf
Riva's Bookshelf Sandra's Bookshelf Suzie's Bookshelf
Theodore's Bookshelf Valentina's Bookshelf  

Reviewer's Choice

Little Mountain
Bob Sanchez
9781451539028 $15.00

Carter Jefferson

Sambath Long, recently promoted to detective in the Lowell, Massachusetts, police force, had fled from Cambodia to the bleak remains of that once-thriving factory town more than a decade before. He'd been there long enough to acquire a lovely American wife and a delightful four-year-old daughter. He tried to forget his past, but that past would not let him go.

When an intruder's shotgun blasts through the open doorway of an apartment in a squalid neighborhood occupied almost completely by Cambodian refugees and kills the building's landlord, Bin Chea, Sam answers the call. Not a soul in the area knows anything about the murder--or they are too frightened to speak to a cop about their suspicions.

Sam's dogged pursuit leads him back into a world he thought he'd escaped. Every interview with local gang members brings back memories of his days of forced service to violent leaders of the Communist regime in his homeland and the cruel death of his father in a prison camp called Little Mountain. While he seeks a murderer in his new homeland, he lives again the agony of life under the Khmer Rouge.

Though haunted by his past and hindered by his thoroughly obnoxious boss, Lieutenant Wilkins, Sam never loses his determination to find the killer.

Many Americans can remember hearing something about the grim days of Cambodia in the last half of the 1970s, but I suspect most are like me; I heard about atrocities, but it was too soon after our war in Vietnam to pay much attention to another Communist regime in southeast Asia. Like me, most readers of this book will learn a great deal about a time of horror.

Bob Sanchez is a veteran writer with a reputation for introducing bizarre characters and stories that produce guffaws on every page. But this time is different. Sambath Long is no comic figure, and this tale is as grim as they come. Sanchez tells it very well, and anyone who reads police procedurals or historical novels will find this book spellbinding.

Under a Texas Star
Alison Bruce
Imajin Books, 2011
3715-14 St. NW, Edmonton, AB Canada, T6T 0149
9781926997117 (pb) 9781926997100 $3.99
(Smash words which includes PDF, HTML, Mobi, and other ebook formats)

Christina Francine, Reviewer

Every event carries more repercussions than what we realize, especially events like war. The American Civil War carries serious repercussions for Marshal Jase Strachan and Marley Landers. They are but children when murder rips their worlds apart takes their parents. Determination for justice drives them then and leads them onto the trail of the same man, Charlie Meese.

Bruce pulls her readers in because she weaves a tale about a sweet and innocent girl from Kansas who disguises herself as a boy. Next, she places her on the trail of her parent's killer alone in an untamed world, gives her ability, bravado, and charm. Then, Bruce takes an experienced man-of-the-law, puts him on the trail of the same man, and makes him drawn to the young man. Bruce's character, Marshal Jase Strachan, feels it his duty at first to protect the lad. Eventually this instinct intensifies when he learns the lad is really a young woman of about twenty-one and can't keep Marley from stealing his heart. Bruce continues tantalizing readers by keeping Marley unaware that the Marshal has discovered her secret. Finally, Bruce paints an on-the-spot sense of place. Readers smell the dry breeze, see the open wild country, and feel the cold gun in Marley's hand and the emotionally charged atmosphere between Marshal Strachan and young Marley.

It's a Western tale that blends engaging adventure with spirited romance delightfully. Reminds me of Louis L' Amour novels.

A town called Fortuna requires the Marshal's aide in finding another killer. During the investigation, Marley grows herself quite a reputation. She'd become an excellent marksman and is considered brave. She also is mistaken as young Amabelle Egan's suitor, which places Marley in further danger. Marshal Strachan has his hands full keeping Marley safe. He doesn't let on that he knows however, but instead continues to support Marley's facade. As time goes by, the two grow a friendship while something else grows between them as well. Both attempt not to allow this something happen, yet it does. Jase, Marshal Strachan, know Marley is safest as a boy, especially when surrounded by danger. He also knows that eventually they need to go to El Paso where Marley's destiny also will decide his. Will the repercussions of their time together be enough?

Bruce is a terrific story-teller. . .a complete joy to read. She immerses readers into a smoking Western that is also a spunky romance and remnant of the Texas Ranger series. Recommended.

Hera's Revenge: An Yvonne Suarez Travel Mystery
Wendy Dingwall
Canterbury House Publishing
Vilas, North Carolina
9780982905425 $14.95

Christy Tillery French

Yvonne Suarez, travel agent with the Pinkerton Travel Agency in Fort Lauderdale, FL, books a group tour to the Greek Islands. From the beginning of the tour, when a man's body is found on the baggage claim conveyor belt in Athens, the trip goes awry. Bad luck follows the group as they continue on their tour, and Yvonne begins to suspect some of the passengers aren't who they say they are. When two of the women meet with accidents which could have been fatal, Yvonne teams up with fellow traveler David Ludlow in hopes of keeping her tourist group safe. Yvonne is attracted to David but her years married to an abusive husband interfere with her ability to trust him. David, on the other hand, would like nothing more than to begin a relationship with Yvonne. But danger lurks ahead for the two, in more ways than one.

The premise for this mystery series is a refreshing addition to the mystery genre. The author excels at interweaving interesting historical and mythological data into the plot. This, along with her vivid visual descriptive, leaves the reader feeling as if s/he is actually touring the Greek Isles along with the group. Although characters abound, the author's unique ability to introduce and flesh out each one voids any sort of confusion as to who's who. Yvonne Suarez is an intriguing character, a woman who had the strength to leave an abusive relationship and harbors empathy for those in like situations. The mystery is one readers will be challenged to solve, filled with twists and turns and plenty of red herrings.

Letters to Juniper
Peggy Tibbetts
Sisterhood Publications
410 West Center Street, Kaysville, UT 84037
9780967786827 $12.99

Chynna Laird

As an author and an avid reader, one thing I look for in books -- whatever the genre -- is the author's ability to capture my attention from the get-go, allowing tiny snippets of information to come as needed to keep me reading. And that's exactly what author Peggy Tibbetts succeeded in doing with the amazing middle grade book, "Letters to Juniper".

At first, the reader meets Sarah Smith. She's a twelve-year-old girl who forced to live an isolated life in a cabin deep in the woods ... far away from "normal" civilization. Sarah lives in the small cabin with her father, step-mother, and three younger brothers. Sarah spends most of her day doing chores, caring for her brothers, and hunting. She longs to do the fun things other girls her age normally do, including making friends, listening to music, watching the latest movie or television show, going to dances and gossiping about boys. But she isn't allowed to do any of those things. In fact, her father forbids his family from interacting with the outside world. He even has them carry rifles and believing that outside forces are constantly watching them. The isolation and loneliness has Sarah start writing letters to her best childhood friend, Juniper.

With each letter, the reader is drawn deeper into Sarah's life. We see exactly what she has to endure from hard chores to her step-mother's harassment to her father's spiral into paranoia and fear. We start wondering what's really going on in this family. Is there a secret so devastating that her father is willing to die to protect?

I won't spoil the ending but this book is brilliant. Not only does Peggy get into the mind of a young adult, and does it so well, she also tells the story through letters -- not many people can write in that style successfully. She slowly allowed the story to unfold, giving us enough information in each chapter to keep us interested to read "just one more letter" then hits us with an ending I can only describe as similar to the surprise kick in the movie "Sixth Sense" -- the reader knows something else is going on but didn't quiet expect that ending.

The is book is fantastic, unique and well-written -- a true gem of a book.

The Shepherd
Ethan Cross
Fiction Studio
P.O. Box 4613 Stamford CT 06907
9781936558063 $10.53 (pb) $2.99 (Kindle)


Marcus Williams is a retired New York City Homicide Detective that has left New York to move to a farmhouse in Texas that was willed to him by his aunt. He made a choice to save others and due to that choice it was definitely time for a change. Small town life has a great appeal.

At the same time Francis Ackerman, Jr. makes a different choice. He chooses to inflict pain and suffering to as many people as possible and happens to arrive in Texas at exactly the same time as Marcus.

They both become very unwilling pawns in a conspiracy that reaches the highest levels of our government. Marcus becomes involved in a "game" with a psychopathic serial killer and a vigilante group with unlimited resources. He must wrestle his own demons all the while trying to stop one of the most ruthless killers in the world while trying to figure out and expose a huge political conspiracy.

Hold on tight, this book is going to shake you to the core!!!

A Spellbinding, Enthralling, Mind-Bending, Riveting Thriller!!!!Look out James Patterson, Ethan Cross is giving you some fantastic competition. This is an excellent book but it will definitely give you nightmares and it will be a book you will be telling everyone about for a long time to come. The best thriller I have read this year!!!

Female Brain Gone Insane: An Emergency Guide For Women Who Feel Like They Are Falling Apart
Mia Lundin R.N.C. N.P.
Health Communications Inc.
3201 S.W. 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, Florida 33442
9780757314162 $14.95

Jamie Coleman

Female Brain Gone Insane: An Emergency Guide For Women Who Feel Like They Are Falling Apart is a mandatory and comprehensive medical manual for every woman in her 20's and beyond. The author does an excellent job of explaining to her female readers about the perils of hormonal decline, which is inevitable and should be anticipated.

In colorful detail, the author explains that symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, anxiety and depression are typical symptoms of hormonal imbalance, which can easily and effectively be cured by natural hormone therapy and amino acids.

This title gives hope to every woman suffering from female mood disorders, PMS, peri-menopause and menopause.

S'Mother: The Story of a Man, His Mom, and the Thousands of Altogether Insane Letters She's Mailed Him
Adam Chester
Abrams Image
An Imprint of Abrams
115 West 18th Street, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10011
9780810996458 $15.95

Jessica Radzak

When Adam Chester left his mother in Florida to attend the University of Southern California, he intended to leave all traces of his mother behind. He would finally be free of the woman who'd bring his forgotten sweater to him while he was still changing in the boys' locker room. But Joan Chester would not be left behind. Not while her son needed her protection. And so she began to send him letters. Lots of letters. And Adam kept every one. Now he gets to exact his embarrassment revenge in the appropriately titled S'Mother: The Story of a Man, His Mom, and the Thousands of Altogether Insane Letters She's Mailed Him, a collection of the best Joan Chester letters he received.

Joan Chester did not send run-of-the-mill "How's college? Miss you lots!" letters. These missives were filled with such sage advice as "[I]f you buy U.S. Savings Bonds, you have to keep them in a safe deposit box at the bank so no one can steal them" and "Have a good time next weekend and take your stomach medication with you in case you eat onions again." Valuable life lessons. But this correspondence was not all fun and games for Joan. She repeatedly reminds Adam - as she's "getting on in years" - where her will and insurance policies are located if he should ever need to find them.

The letters continue throughout Adam's adult life - after graduation, after he meets his wife, after he's hired as an Elton John stand-in. The short collection highlighted in S'Mother jumps from letter to letter with only the shortest setup or reaction from Adam. While the letters (some complete with reproductions) are highly entertaining, this quick read could have easily fit in more backstory without slowing down the pace.

Chester freely admits that this book was meant to help readers feel better about their own moms, but he has a genuine gift in all this material. For all of her mundane and inane information, Joan has provided her son with a tangible stash of motherly love. In this age of trite texts and tweets, a whole generation is growing up not knowing the joy of opening the mail box to find not only bills and solicitations, but also handwritten letters. That you can keep. Without the fear of losing them if your computer crashes or your phone ends up in the pool. Chester wrote and compiled this book for the entertainment of others, and perhaps to poke a little fun at his mom, but I'd also bet he realizes just how lucky he is.

Joan Chester may not win any Mother of the Year awards, but she can't be accused of not caring about her son. She practically wrote a book for him. Adam cashed in on this valuable material in S'Mother and so does the reader.

Free To Bloom
Jill Green
Advocate House
An imprint of A Cappela Publishing, Sarasota, FL
P.O. Box 3691, Sarasota, FL 34230-3692
9780984617722 $14.95

Jodi Grant

Feeling mousey, dull, in a rut? So was Danielle, caught in a debilitating loveless marriage. When the truth struck her, she said to herself, "You only live once" and shed the restraints. Leaving her native Florida, she built a house in Costa Rica's tropical jungle and adventured into life, learning a new language, waking up to howler monkeys, experiencing new love, the cultivation and harvesting of marijuana, swimming with alligators, diving down waterfalls and making archeological discoveries. She shares her forays into the unknown and the wisdom garnered from them in eleven short stories (changed to protect the innocent) in her new book, Free to Bloom.

Anyone in the doldrums will enjoy this break for freedom and the lessons learned.

Available at your favorite bookstore and at Learn more about Jill's ongoing adventures in her blog:

The Lily Trilogy
Sherry Boas
Caritas Press
P.O. Box 2452, Gilbert, AZ 85299-2452
Until Lily: 9780983386605 $11.95
Wherever Lily Goes: 9780983386612 $11.95
Life Entwined with Lily's: 9780983386629 $12.95

Leticia Velasquez

Novels can be dangerous; if they are compelling, they threaten to suck up all of a busy mother's time away from her children. For half a week, I have been capitalizing on the distraction of my family or stealing needed sleep from myself, in order to plunge headlong into the world of Lily in Sherry Boas' books The Lily Trilogy. Some novels tempt you to want to live in a fantasy world, to keep the characters you have come to know and love alive.

I wondered, then, why I was becoming so engrossed with a book about an acerbic old lady alone in a nursing home within the iron grip of the final stages of Parkinson's? It was the way author Sherry Boas described her adopted daughter Lily. Lily is a young woman with Down syndrome whom Bev had reluctantly agreed to raise when her sister Jen died of cancer at 39. I had never read a novel with a character with Down syndrome before, and Mrs. Boas write about Lily so vividly and with such appreciation of her childlike joy and limitless love, that I was immediately drawn in.

But the compelling novels of the Lily Trilogy: Until Lily, Wherever Lily Goes, and Life Entwined with Lily had something more attracting me than merely an affinity for those with Down syndrome, something deeper. I immersed myself into the world of a lonely old lady whose life was coming to an end, and then the lives of her adopted niece Terry and grandniece Beth in the subsequent books. I lost myself not because of exotic locations (Washington State) or romantic heroes. I was enthralled by such exquisitely detailed characters made me care deeply about what happened to them, whether Bev would die lonely and bitter, whether Terry would give up on her marriage to her handsome Jake who never picked up a tool around the house, whether Beth could open her broken heart and learn from Lily, that nothing matters in life more than love. I had to know what happened to them, and read these three books at a breathless pace, finding my heart wrapped around the characters. Especially the lovable, stubborn Lily who never gives up on someone she loves.

The characters in the Lily Trilogy are as real as your own family, and as flawed. Yet, there is a theme in these novels, a theme of redemption which starts faintly at first, as a thirty-something Lily walks her frail aunt down the nursing home corridors to patiently feed her meatloaf and mashed potatoes even though she has long ago lost her sense of taste, Lily gives the love Bev meted out to her in tiny pinches, in unmeasured generosity Bev knows she doesn't deserve. But Lily's prodigious love changes Bev, and heals her. Not by taking away from the suffering of losing control of her limbs to the Parkinson's, but helping her to see beyond this life, to an eternal love mirrored in the gentle touch of the soft hands of a young woman whom the world rejects.

The power of selfishness to destroy lives versus the power of self-giving love to restore hope is the theme of this amazing story set in the future. Strange as it was to see dates like 2066 written as dates in the past of the novel's characters, this is no science fiction book. It is a story about real people who resemble people around us, whose flaws hurt and whose love heals us, and the hope that turns despair into love though the power of pure intentions.

The Lily Trilogy are the most Catholic of books in that that glory of the fullness of truth well lived and the devastating consequences of the Culture of Death are juxtaposed in stunning relief. The story tells it all, with profound relationships and moving symbolism, and enough realistic detail to remind the reader of a similar drama in their own lives.

I hugged my nine year old daughter with Down syndrome each time I reluctantly put the books down, and saw heretofore unappreciated qualities in my family. The Lily Trilogy filled my heart with gratitude for my family, and made me determined to be the catalyst of God's healing in my family.

Give it to your mother for Mother's Day and let a little of Lily's light intertwine in your own life.

These are the novels I want my daughters losing themselves in this summer. I want to sit outside with cups of tea in the summer twilight and talk about Lily, Beth, Pablo and Terry. Then, I want to pick up the books and visit them again. These books, after drawing me into their world, make me reflect on my own with appreciation and want to become the transformed Terry who sees the nobility in her husband she missed in 20 years as he moved across the country to care for her sister Lily. To make my home radiate with the joy of their renewed love. To take my precious nine year old daughter Christina in my arms and thank her for the joy she has brought to us, and not to fear what her adulthood will bring. Whether or not she lives independently, she, like Lily will be a blessing to whoever shares her life.

How many times can it be said that a novel makes you a more grateful, loving person who reenters life from the world of the novel to embrace the challenges which sent you running into the pages of the book in the first place?

Recommended for ages 14 and up, no objective content.
Books may be purchased online at

Johann Sebastian Bach
Rick Marschall
Thomas Nelson
Nashville, TN
9781595551085 $12.00

Mary Crocco

Bach was born on March 21, 1685 in Germany, born into the Lutheran faith. As a church musician, Bach did not preach about music, his music preached about Christ. He had a personal relationship, not a professional duty, with Christ.

Bach began composing music at the early age of ten. His lifelong studies of the Bible and of Lutheran doctrine were the backbone of his performances. Church music was everywhere, and Bach's performances were welcomed in churches other than his Lutheran church. His secular works were performed at salons, public houses, gardens, and concert halls. He believed music was easy to understand and hard to explain.

Bach could be funny 'through' music, but he was always serious 'about' music. His guide was always Martin Luther. He felt it a privilege to serve God by composing music, teaching music, conducting choirs, and arranging worship services. At the time, music played a major role in making the life of everyday people bearable, pleasant, and joyful, and Bach played an important part of that role. He survived many challenges because he adhered to Scripture, while others may have also benefited from doing the same.

Bach was a strong proponent of women singing. This was during a time when women were considered second-class citizens who did not share men's rights.

Other composers sought out Bach to discuss music and hear him play. When public taste changed, the baroque style of music was felt in churches, concert halls, and opera theaters. Historians have said the closing of the Baroque period was the year Bach died, being the end of an era. The year was 1750, the place still in Germany. He was blind the last four months. In his final days he composed a great fugue based on the letters of his name - B-A-C-H. It was not 'about' God but 'to' God.

Bach suffered great loss in his life. He fathered twenty children, eleven sadly died. His first wife, Maria, died in 1720. His family was serious; however, they were capable of silliness, sarcasm, and nonsense.

I recommend this book by Rick Marschall to readers of all ages. It educates the reader beyond the usual facts, in this case, music knowledge. He portrayed Bach as a well-rounded musician whose life evolved around Christ. The Appendix and Notes are appreciated and necessary for the musically challenged reader.

Scarlet Moon
K.C. Hughes
Publish America, LLP
P.O. Box 151
Frederick, MD 21705
9781413700732 $9.95

Michele Kimbrough

Life can be mired with the unexpected and it's no different for firefighter Rick Edison who, while on a quest to find his ex-wife's killer, is confronted with the obstacles of his own flaws. This fast-paced, action packed murder mystery is filled with surprising twists as Edison gets closer to learning the truth. A well-crafted story, Scarlet Moon is an edgy, sexual, nail-biting experience.

The Second Fall
John David Rowe
Advocate House
An imprint of A Cappela Publishing, Sarasota, FL
P. O. Box 3680, Sarasota, FL 34230-3690
9780984617739 $15.95

Patrika Vaughn

Can We Survive the Knowledge of Our Mortality?

Our awareness of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, of planetary pollution and of ten thousand years of inhumanity toward one another undermines our sense of social continuity and connection. We can no longer be certain that there will be anyone left to remember our sacrifices, marvel at our accomplishments, or reap the benefits of our labors and carry them forward. We are reminded of this fact almost daily, in subtle ways like another animal being placed on the endangered species list, and not so subtle ways like the escalating nuclear arms race between India, Pakistan, and now Iran. At the same time, the works of Darwin, Freud, Einstein, Marx, and many others, erode our sense of spiritual continuity. Maybe we are just highly evolved apes and religion is just wish fulfillment or an opiate. This global sense of doubt is unique in world history and it is having a much greater impact on our behavior than most of us realize.

"Regardless of who we are, where we live, or what we believe, we share two unquestionable realities. We are all mortal, and we all live on this tiny spec floating in an oceanic universe. So we had better learn to get along." states John Rowe introducing the concept of Existential Christianity.

Written in an accessible style, this book tackles the root causes of fear and the universal human striving to make sense of life, death, and what comes next. Rowe offers a viewpoint of hope to anyone who has been confounded by the disparity between faith and reason, pointing to reconciliation for peace on the earth.

The Second Fall is a must-read for anyone who has ever wondered about humanity's place in the Universe.

Available at your favorite bookstore or at

jesus freakz + buddha punx
M.E. Purfield
Trash Books/Smashwords
15951 Los Gatos Blvd
Los Gatos, CA 95032
ASIN: B004YL5ZD8 $0.99
Kindle edition: 201 KB

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Patty Gee's Pentecostal faith gave her strength and happiness after her mother's death. Her faith also pleases her father, a deeply troubled zealot. It's easy to see why she clings to God. Her faith also makes her the target of bullies. One day Zenaida accuses Patty of looking at her boyfriend Tommy and punches her out. A Spanish-speaking black girl named Miggy comes to her aid, but Patty is too traumatized to respond. Overcome with the Holy Spirit at church on Sunday, Patty confesses to the congregation her belief that God has sent Miggy to her. When Miggy pursues her, Patty is further convinced their friendship is ordained by God. Even though they clash on so many different levels, in Miggy, Patty finds a friend who accepts her for who she is. Her often humorous observations - especially of classmates - betray the confusion she feels about her own life. "jesus freakz + buddha punx" is a quirky sort of spiritual journey challenging readers to think beyond beliefs and stereotypes and see that friendship comes in all lifestyles.

The 19th Wife, A Novel
David Ebershoff
Random House
9780812974157 $15.00

Rebecca Guevara, Reviewer

Murder, incest, sex, runaways, love, historical personalities. All are meant to keep pages turning. The 19th Wife is a braided drama reflecting the woman's braid on the book's cover. History is the first braid with the appearance of documentation to support the second braid, the fictionalized biography of Ann Eliza Young. Ann Eliza is historically the 19th wife of Brigham Young who divorced Brigham and took to the lecture circuit at the time of Mark Twain and Victoria Woodhull. The third braid is the contemporary story of a young man trying to prove his mother innocent of killing his polygamous father. That story takes place in the not even thinly veiled southern Utah town, called Mesadale in the book. All of it is salacious enough to verify the worst in polygamy and imaginative enough to satisfy the meaning of a well told story. But Ann Eliza's story baffles me.

I agree with Ebershoff that history is subjective and he does have a writer's right to portray emotions in the historical figure of Ann Eliza Young and those around her. I respect that history needs to be brought to life in good story to make it meaningful to another generation. It was a good story and the portrayal of daily life in early Salt Lake City will entertain the casual reader of western U.S. history.

Okay, I've given Ebershoff his due. It's a well-written entertaining story, but there's a problem that I've found troubling with historical fiction. Ever since I read Girl With the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier about the painter Vermeer's life, over ten years ago, I've wondered how much right novelists have to latch onto an historical figure and turn them into puppets for their own end. Engaging fiction gets embedded into the historical belief about that person. How much free reign should a novelist have?

I understand Ebershoff's personality portrayals of Ann Eliza and Brigham are fictional. I know the complete story of the young's man's fight for his mother is fiction. But where I draw the line with Ebershoff is on the second page of his Author's Note and Acknowledgement where he writes he is the author of "...the newspaper articles, the letters, the Introduction by Harriet Beecher Stowe..." What! He uses real people and his cover of fiction to occasionally break into the story and expound like an historian with fake documents? I feel totally fooled by snarky entertaining clips from the San Francisco Examiner, et al, that the truthful items that could have sparked his story like stars from a magnetic center were false. And he took the name of Harriet Beecher Stowe in vain? Putting her into a story like a balancing reference? Why not a fictional Gretchen Aberdeen? Why should I believe any of his observations of Mormon life? Where is the line between fiction and subtly placed revisionist history?

Daughters of the River Huong
Uyen Nicole Duong
P.O. Box 400818, Las Vegas, NV 89140
9781935597315 $13.95

Sandra Shwayder Sanchez, Reviewer

"As a young girl, I did not feel the need to learn the mi origin of my name. It did not help solidify my sense of aesthetics, decorum or the business of the soul. I thought, instead, of a note on my piano. Mi-mi-mi-mi. I equated the mi sound with pure, vibrating sounds that began with the closing and opening of the lips. When the lips were gently brought together and then opened upon a breath, the air brushed slightly outward, and the sound was delivered with the softness of a caress.

From the beginning of my existence, I was a child in love with sounds." (p.152)

As a reader in love with the lyrical qualities of language I found this book to be a feast of earthly and heavenly delights, a series of impressionist paintings, a symphony of sounds. Even when the tragic sacrifice of a deep and passionate love to the exigent circumstances of war and politics caused me to indulge in a vigorous cry, I rejoiced in the beauty of the story. For life is like that, both brutal and sweet. The author retells a portion of Vietnamese history from the perspective of four generations of women: women who are beautiful, women who sing, women who dream and see spirits, women who fight like warriors and a girl who dances the twist, sings Beethoven, plays Chopin on the piano and eventually studies law in America. On a business trip for her American law firm the narrator eventually returns to her homeland where she learns some harsh truths, confronts the magnitude of her loneliness and finds, where she least expects it, the promise of redemption for herself and the souls of the generations that went before her.

The plot is complex and the author reveals it in layers, creating then relieving suspense in a rhythmic pattern. Her characters are both real and ethereal. She lets us see their faces, hear their voices and smell their fragrances. She lets us into their dreams. She also describes the land itself in a way that transports the reader to the time and place of each chapter. I recommend the reader begin this book with plenty of time ahead for once you begin you won't want to put it down and there are portions you will probably want to reread. Also after you've finished you'll need some time to recover from the emotional impact, the feeling that you've just lived through something both beautiful and tragic.

Emergency Room Wrestling
The Dirty Poet
Words Like Kudzu Press
PO Box 7284, Pittsburgh, PA 15213
9780975386217, $10.00,

Savannah Schroll Guz

Notes from the Trenches: The Dirty Poet's Emergency Room Wrestling

Anyone who has watched ER or viewed the formulaic misfortunes comprising each episode of House can understand the chaos and horror inherent to critical care services. In light of the contemporary health care debate--now mired in politicized abstractions--the subject of critical care has itself become critical. However, it is not the organizational injustice that the poetry collection, Emergency Room Wrestling, recently published by Words Like Kudzu Press, deals with. Instead, it is the frustration, the revulsion, and the raw experience of an insider that makes this such a powerful and disturbing collection. It is a work that, through its fundamental revelations, elevates issues central to the healthcare crisis. Beyond the red tape, beyond the battalions of statistics lies humanity, weak and quivering like pale jello. These poems, frank in their expression, get to the core of individual experience.

Presumably male, the self-dubbed 'Dirty Poet' has been an emergency room respiratory technician for twenty years, and this collection represents his first book. Based on the copyright, which spans eleven years, some of the included poems date to 2000. For the poet, the collection title likely has metaphorical significance, since these poems are, ostensibly, a method of processing both the disgusting nature of ailing humanity and the frequent obtuseness of patients and their visitors. In every room, there is an unpleasant narrative, and many of the 44 works reveal the poet's observations and unsavory experiences. Yet, that is not to say this is entirely factual reportage, as the last stanza of the prefatory poem, "for the tortured genius", indicates: "hospitals exist; misery is real/this book is imagination/driving a lamborghini of experience". Therein lies the authorial disclaimer.

Still, the poet sets the collection's tone, and establishes his vantage point, in his first poem, fittingly titled, "you think you need a beer". In relatively objective, if darkly humorous language, he explains the difficulty of supporting a screaming, 400-pound man, whose groin and genital tissue has been largely destroyed by necrotizing bacteria. As the poem's speaker strains to keep the patient upright, other nurses attempt to clean up a tide of feces. (Dear Dirty Poet: Under the circumstances, I would say something stronger than beer is called for. How about a double vodka? Allow me to buy the first round.)

The dirty poet continues in "you think you need a beer" by asking how it's possible the man's infection got so bad before he sought treatment. He ends by musing over the man's weight. How, he wonders, did he allow himself to grow so unmanageably large? Although such questions might be decried as discriminatory, they are valid to the healthcare debate. In a society that still promotes informed choice and personal responsibility, one might safely ask how much have this man's own actions (or inaction) turned him into a permanent victim? And what, then, is our responsibility to him in medical terms? Going a step further, who is the true victim here? The patient, who is clearly suffering, or the caretaker, who must wade through recurring torrents of fecal matter to care for him?

In many ways, this is the conceptual heart of the entire collection. It is what makes each of the incorporated poems so timely, but also "timeless," as collection editor and Words Like Kudzu Press founder Karen Lillis notes in her incisive introduction. In these windows onto patient, visitor, and caretaker behavior, The Dirty Poet offers us commentary on humanity's contemporary expectations, their impractical burdens, and the sometimes questionable nature of victimhood.

Certainly, the spectral presence of patients' rights lingers on each page, but in poems like"must have been a full moon in that unit" caretakers' involuntary (and compulsory) sacrifice of personal safety is thrown into high relief:

On my way into room # 9
where I found a Mexican standoff
the patient had the nurse by the hair
let go of me she said
he wouldn't
I grabbed his arm and tried to pry open his fingers
couldn't do it
I went around the bed and he punched me

Often, there is death, through no apparent fault of the victims'. And sometimes, because of vicious and problematic patients and the frequency of death, its occurrence is often accepted without--what outsiders might view as--the necessary gravity. Moreover, The Dirty Poet warns against taxing hospital staff with questions and requirements. In "human nature", he writes, "every time you ask me if I washed my hands/(like the posted signs advise you to ask)/i think: if you're that worried about infection/i'll just stay out of the room; that much less exposure/that means painful bedpan delay for your loved one/or lying in filth a little longer". It's likely an attitude patients suspect technicians of having, and it's frightening to hear its confirmation in this poem. Yet, doesn't this warning to revise our behavior as patients and visitors also reveal a lapse in obligation? The visitor has caught no one by the hair and thrown no punches, so does naive concern warrant a withdrawal of vigilant care? This poem speaks to the profession's tendency towards burn out. As with other service oriented fields, medical technicians are forced into constant and direct interface with the public, which leads-almost inevitably and in short order-to frustrated exhaustion. And while this might not be so menacing in some occupations, like waitressing, it certainly has dire consequences in the healthcare field.

PC or not, these messages, both tacit and avowed, are subjects essential to discussions about healthcare and the crisis we currently face. What role does patient responsibility play in treatment? Should it play a role at all? What must medical providers forfeit while treating the belligerent and willfully helpless? What do these experiences do to their sense of duty? These are questions that need to be asked, if not answered, before we can reach constructive solutions in a system growing ever more complex, both on financial and ethical levels.

Perhaps most importantly, the poems elevating these questions comes from a vantage point many of us find entertaining in prime time, but don't otherwise critically consider, unless we are caught in the system itself. Ultimately, The Dirty Poet presents us with notes from the trenches. We would be wise to listen and learn.

Buddha and the Quantum
Samuel Avery
Sentient Publications
1113 Spruce Street Boulder, CO 80302
9781591811060 $12.95

Stephen J. Hage

In his first book, the Dimensional Structure of Consciousness, Samuel Avery reveals a new paradigm for understanding our experience, in space and time, as multicellular organisms. He does this by walking us through the physics that underlies the structure of the paradigm and makes his ideas intelligible to those who have a good working knowledge of physics, relativity theory and quantum mechanics.

For those with little or no exposure to physics, relativity theory or quantum mechanics, The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness will be a tough slog but worth the effort.

In his second book, Transcendence of the Western Mind, Avery revisits the paradigm of the dimensional structure of consciousness but softens his approach by relating ideas physicists understand intuitively, like rotating axes of space and time orthogonally by relating them to things non-physicists do every day, like walking from your living room to your bedroom. And, continuing this softer approach he helps the reader understand the different relationships between the five realms of perceptual consciousness, seeing, hearing, smell, taste and touch and how their coordination in space-time actually creates the world.

He deals with the mind, and meditation, the self and being and introduces us to a sixth realm of consciousness-observational consciousness-that exists in a dimension of its own-order.

In Buddha and the Quantum, Avery, once again, revisits the principles which underlie the paradigm he has created-the dimensional structure of consciousness-by approaching it in a way that is even softer than the approach he used in Transcendence of the Western Mind. By providing detailed descriptions of certain meditative experiences he is able to relate those experiences to the principles which underlie how consciousness is structured and why we experience the world the way we do.

He further refines and clarifies concepts dealt with in the previous books like the photon screen and the quantum screen making them easier to understand. Here is an example:

"Now, still watching the subtle sensations in your field of vision, open your eyes. Concentrate on the whole body as you see part of it become light. This may take a few tries. The subtle sensations that you see crackling like static electricity in front of your eyes suddenly become tiny points of color arranged in space. They fall into a multidimensional grid pattern with each point of light at its own distinct location. Shapes and patterns of light form with crisp lines and sharp edges. Unlike shapes in the body, each visual pattern begins and ends at a precise location and each has its own clear identity. There is little overlap among them and there is empty space between them. Most of the space you see remains unoccupied, as if it were potential perception waiting to be filled with actual perception.

This is the photon screen. The screen is not the photons; it is the grid pattern they fall into. It is the wholeness of multi-cellular consciousness that cannot be reduced to cellular consciousness. It is not in space; it is space."

With Buddha and the Quantum, as he did with his first two books, Samuel Avery lifts the veil even further allowing us to not only glimpse but also actually see how the universe works and why we experience it in the ways we do.

What I enjoy most about reading Avery is his insights expand my mind and, as I reread his thoughts and think about them deeply, my own mind is blown to smithereens. It is a truly exhilarating intellectual experience.

If you find any of this at all interesting, I recommend you read Buddha and the Quantum first. Then read Transcendence of the Western Mind and, if you dare, then read The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness and be prepared to have your own mind blown to smithereens.

Teaching Number in the Classroom with 4-8 year-olds
Robert J. Wright, Stanger, Garry, Stafford, Ann K., Martland, James
Sage Publications Ltd
London, England
9781412907583, $40.95

Toni Gallia

Teaching Number in the Classroom with 4-8 year-olds (Wright, Stanger, Stafford, & Martland, 2010) provides educators with an "inquiry-based" (Wright et al., 2010, p. xx) instructional approach that will help build a solid foundation in young students. This book had a unique emphasis on understanding the students' developmental level as bases in changing instructional strategies. The organization of the text may be challenging to use as a book study among teachers; however, overall the content is useful.

This text is part of a three part series of books that unveils the best practices from the Math Recovery Programme. Unlike the first "two books-Early Numeracy: Assessment for Teaching and Intervention and Teaching Number: Advancing Children's Skills and Strategies which focus[ed] mainly on the provision of specialist, intervention teaching of low-attaining children" (Wright et al., 2010, p.1) the authors point out that this text is designed to teach "early numeracy to all children" (Wright et al., 2010, p.1). The layout of the text is in three parts with Part I consisting of two chapters (Wright et al., 2010). The first chapter is dedicated to outlining nine guiding principles for classroom teaching as well as the Classroom Instructional Framework for Early Number (Wright et al., 2010, p. 5). The second chapter is dedicated to informing readers how to use Part II (Wright et al., 2010). Part II gives a topic overview of each skill, then lists the assessment tasks and instructional activities to support student learning (Wright et al., 2010). Part III describes the role of the teacher and the role of the student (Wright et al., 2010).

Part I discusses how to schedule classes within the day and a school to allow for effective use of the instructional assessments and activities (Wright et al., 2010). It also reiterates the importance of the Teaching and Learning cycle (Wright et al., 2010, p. 13). The table for the "Classroom Instructional Framework for Early Number Learning" (Wright et al., 2010, p. 9) gave educators a talking point to compare their curriculum maps and instructional strategies that they currently use with that of what the authors suggest. In section 2 of Part I, not only do the authors give the rationale for the assessment task groups that ties back to the Teaching and Learning cycle, but also gives the format and ways to adapt these assessment tasks in the classroom (Wright et al., 2010).

Hopefully educators will endure and overlook the repetitive text that is used to describe the structure and organization of the book in Part I because Part II is the true treasure of this text. It is also the bulk of the book covering 147 pages of instructional insights, assessments, and activities. These insights allow educators to use professional judgment and teach educators how to use developmental levels to guide instruction.

Part III of this text focuses on the professional development of teachers with an emphasis on using videotape to improve instructional strategies (Wright et al., 2010). The chapter also encourages teachers to give the students ownership of his or her learning. This chapter would have better served the target audience of educators as the first chapter in this book. It builds teacher confidence by explaining that a "learning teacher" (Wright et al., 2010, p. 177) is a teacher that is knowledgeable about a variety of student characteristics.

This book has many notable, good qualities and is a great study for educators. Because the content is drawn from research, has "practical application" (Wright et al., 2010, p. xviii), and encourages teachers to use professional judgments, many teachers will find themselves easily buying in to the suggested instructional strategies and assessments. The instructional strategies and assessments are flexible enough to be added to any program, yet guidance is given to help provide structure if it does not already exist.

The pictures and diagrams help clarify for the reader the math strategies that students are taught. The layout of the assessment tasks and instructional strategies are concise which not only allow teachers to use this material effectively, but also brings clarity and confidence to the teacher. Each assessment activity explains the needed "materials, what to do and say, and notes" (Wright et al., 2010, p. 21) of general guidelines to keep in mind. Each instructional activity follows a similar format of "title, intended learning, description, notes, and materials" (Wright et al., 2010, p. 22). This text differs from most teaching manuals since it is not a prescriptive assessment. For example, if a child does not perform well on an assessment, the educator will not be able to turn to a sheet of paper that leads the educator through a step-by-step process to instruct the child. Instead, the reader should refer to a list of instructional activities or use the assessment tasks themselves as a learning tool that is appropriate for the development of that child.

The materials needed are not costly and most can even be made. Unfortunately, creating quite a few of the materials needed for most of the activities and assessments will consume some of the teachers' time since the materials are not found on the accompanied compact disc-read-only memory (CDROM).

The major drawback of this book is the organization of the text which seems to miss a valuable target audience of time-pressed teachers. This book seemed to lose its effectiveness in carrying its message to the readers by focusing much of its time and space explaining how the text is organized. An example of how the organization takes away for the content of the text is demonstrated in two different examples in Part I. Part I unfolds with a summary box that offers an overview of the three sections (Wright et al., 2010). Underneath the summary box is an attempt to give more detail of each section, yet is remarkably similar to the previous words stated in the summary box (Wright et al., 2010, p. 5). In the "General Introduction to Part II" (Wright et al., 2010), the detailed summary box repeats word-for-word in some sentences the summary listed underneath it. This type of duplication of text did not entice the reader to engage in their own problem-solving abilities. By adding thought-provoking questions at the beginning of each section instead of a summary box, the authors can challenge educators to think and become curious while also becoming informed of the content to come. The in-text summary can then help answer the educator's questions and bring structure to the future content. Educators need to make every minute count. The interest is lost to many when a focus is devoted to non-instructional purposes such as repetitive text that does not stimulate the problem-solving abilities of a teacher.

Although this text focuses on the practices used by the Mathematics Recovery Programme, educators using the book alone without extra professional training may stumble through extensive vocabulary. Although the most useful tools in the book are the assessment task and instructional strategies, having these and materials needed for each task in an instructional binder that accompanies the book, will provide more utility in the primary classroom.

The content and math strategies offered in the book are phenomenal. The use of concrete objects and focus on forward and backward counting in the beginning of the text, aids students with the understanding of numbers before moving to mental math. This book, unlike many teaching manuals, shows teachers how to transition students from the concrete to abstract and gives insights on when a student is ready to make that move based on their developmental stage. This text is not easily used as a book study among teachers, but can be used in this manner to build knowledge of teaching number sense among teachers. Teaching Number in the Classroom with 4-8 year-olds (Wright et al., 2010) will help educators form a better understanding of appropriate strategies to use based on the child's developmental stage in numeracy.

The Beast House
Richard Laymon
Dorchester Publishing Co., Inc.
200 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10016
9780843957495 $7.99

Veronica L. Rosas

The bloody and sex-hungry wrath of the beast continues in The Beast House, Laymon's second installment to The Beast House Series. In this sequel, we revisit Malcasa Point, a town that has been plagued by a series of horrific murders since the early 1900s. As in The Cellar, the first book of The Beast House Series, The Beast House is still open for business as a museum of horrors where mutilated victims are placed on display as wax figures, but this time there are new additions to this tasteless freak show.

The story focuses on two major characters that have very different motives for being in the dreadful town of Malcasa Point. The first is the likable heroine, Tyler Moran, a young and beautiful librarian from Los Angeles. Along with her wild and adventurous friend, Nora Branson, they decide to go on road trip to Malcasa Point but not for the purpose of touring Beast House. Tyler is only going to find her ex-boyfriend, Dan Jensen, with the possibility of rekindling their love. But, when Tyler learns Dan "lives" in the Beast House, she has no choice now but to take the ghastly tour. As she begins to learn more about the true history behind Beast House attraction, Tyler can't help but feel apprehensive about the entire trip, and she begins to wonder if this journey to reunite with her ex-lover was a big mistake.

The other major character in the book is Gorman Hardy, an insensitive, best-selling author of the macabre. When he is invited to visit Beast House and write about its violent history, he wastes no time in getting to Malcasa Point. Gorman intends to make Beast House his next best seller, even if it means more lives have to be lost. That is a sacrifice Gorman is more than willing to make in order to get his story.

As Laymon lays out the plans of these two characters, he twists the story by destroying their dreams and plunges the characters into a hellish nightmare. This is Laymon's signature, and that's why his fans love him, including me.

Two of the most common elements in Laymon's work are sex and hard-core violence, and both are essential to creating the underlying theme of destroying happiness and innocence. Laymon sets the stage for disaster and mayhem by a introducing a calm setting, but fans of this unique master of horror know too well that devastation lies ahead. What makes Laymon a genius is that we don't know which characters will survive the nightmare he creates, so he keeps the readers on the edge of their seats.

The Beast House, the second book in the series, is another fun treat for fans of Laymon's work.

Bethany's Bookshelf

Kansas, 1874
Robert Collins
Privately Published
9781456399276, $12.50,

Kansas of the old west wasn't just shootouts and hostile Indians. "Kansas, 1874" tells a story of one of these eventful years in particular, as the state welcomed new people and with new people came new conflict. Author Robert Collins writes this history, choosing the year as the point to where it became a lawless frontier territory to when it became something that began to resemble the Kansas of today. "Kansas, 1874" is a devoted history of the state, a top pick for any who want to learn about this major part of the old west.

Bethany Shehorn
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450283380, $12.95,

When fairy tales turn out to be true, it can change your life for good. "Lysterium" follows Liv, faced her humdrum life just trying to get by. But when a new guy enters her life, she finds that the old stories her grandmother used to tell her have basis in reality, and that it may be her job to make the legends she heard as a job true decades later. "Lysterium" is a fun read with some original ideas, highly recommended.

Blind In One Eye
David R.Ford
c/o SJ Miller Communications
10 Turning Mill Lane, Randolph, MA 02368
9780982971505, $19.95,

Adoption leaves the adopted with many questions. "Blind in One Eye" is one man's journey to find the answers that lie in his past. His parents already had one child, so they were already parents when he entered the world. Why did they refuse a second child, who were they, who was his brother? A remarkable search for the truth, "Blind in One Eye" is a fascinating memoir of what family is, and the decisions made in life we make and their long standing effects.

Blood Lust
Rikki Lee Travolta
Truth & Justice Entertainment
PO Box 281, Woodstock, IL 60098
9780557699513, $13.99,

A thirst for blood isn't the worst thing in the world. "Blood Lust" is the second novel in Rikki Lee's 'My Fractured Life' Saga, as a failing actor finds his way to New Orleans and finds an ancient underbelly that brings him into vampirism, but finds that it simply adds blood into his own list of addictions. "Blood Lust" is worth considering for fans of supernatural fiction, recommended.

The Light of the World
Patrick K. Canon
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781452026367, $10.49,

When the soul is in pain, its cries to the Lord are the loudest. "The Light of the World: A Testimony of Jesus Christ" is one man's call for faith, as he writes how finding faith gave him what he needed to go on as he lost his wife, and says this faith compelled him to write this volume. A work of dedication and memoir, "The Light of the World" is a heartfelt religious read, something that many Christians will relate to and use to empower their lives.

The Viking Dead
Toby Venables
Abaddon Books
9781907519697, $9.99,

Bjolf was used to the daily hell he and his crew faced, legions of undead seemed just like another day. "The Viking Dead: Tomes of the Dead" is a unique novel that pits marauding Vikings of tenth century Europe against flesh eating draugr, or zombies for the not-so-Viking language education. Bjolf must cut through them all and rich a hidden and mysterious castle in the distance and get to the bottom of this curse. "The Viking Dead" is a fast paced story of action and adventure that mixes genres quite well, highly recommended reading.

American Supper
D.R. Baker
Privately Published
9781453621868, $14.95,

We create, and we destroy, our duality is as infinite as our potential. "American Supper" is a collection of poetry from D. R. Baker with a quick and powerful thought and wit as he offers much thought and perspective that takes many form to provide a bit of thought for any reader. "American Supper" is a thoughtful assortment of poetry, highly recommended. "Soldiers": Every word is an/apology./Every act is one of forgiveness,//kindness,/& completion.//Open the doors./We're going in.

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

Song of the Flutist
Rosalind Burgundy
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9781450256605, $20.95,

When civilization seems to only exist in one spot, surrounded by barbarianism, it cannot last forever. "Song of the Flutist" is a work of historical fiction from Rosalind Burgundy, telling of three generations of the highly advanced society of the Etruscans, where equal rights are all around and life seems to be great for those involved. But as the prophecy heralds doom, this good thing may come to an end. A worthy read of historical fiction, "Song of the Flutist" is a finely recommended read, not to be overlooked. Also from Rosalind Burgundy is "Tuscan Intrigue" (0595343015, $18.95) another work of history and fiction, this time from the view of the archeologist, retaining the focus on the Etruscans.

The Rodina Plot
Michael Gerhardt
Privately Published
9780557798490, $22.95,

Forgiveness for past cruelty doesn't come easily. "The Rodina Plot" is an international thriller as plans are put forth throughout the world against Rodina, the Russian term for the motherland. With plenty of political intrigue and military excitement, "The Rodina Plot" is a fun read that should prove a fast-paced thriller and hard to put down.

Susan Hawthorne
9781876756888, $16.95,

One man's dinner is another one's idol. "Cow" is a collection of poetry as author Susan Hawthorne dives into the relativity of culture, politics, and the world's relationships with one another. With a certain wisdom and humor, "Cow" is an intriguing collection of poetry, very highly recommended. "What Queenie Says About Tamil": How the letters land/might be an indicator/in Tamil/the letter on all the temples/is the same sound/aum om/in Tamil/it resembles/a giant ear/at the centre of the universe//listening/listening/to the music.

Psycho Girl
Shawna Savage
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 E. Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064-4421
9781617393587, $11.99,

The terror of an abusive relationship is all too common. "Psycho Girl: Overcoming Through Positive Spirituality" is a self-help guide from Shawna Savage, as she shares her stories of dealing with abuse and encourages other women to find the strength they need to break free from our abusers and reclaim our lives, doing what we can to say never again. With a strong spiritual message with an advocacy of faith, "Psycho Girl" is a strong pick for any woman who wants to reclaim her life.

Kate Supino
Privately Published
9781456490058, $12.99,

Money can ruin everything if you let it. "Clothesline" is a novel by Kate Supino following trio of friends Kelly, Ana, and Sera as they go into business together and try to push their talents to success. But they learn that they are individuals with their own ideas about how things should be done, the friendship might go kaput very quickly. "Clothesline" is a fun read of friendship and the many things that are out to squash it.

White As Bone, Red as Blood, The Storm God
Cerridwen Fallingstar
Cauldron Publications
9780578073552, $19.95,

One woman controls if Japan rises to prosperity or falls into darkness. "White As Bone, Red as Blood, The Storm God" is a follow up of Cerridwen Fallingstar's previous novel The Fox Sorceress. Following Seiko Fujiwara, a woman who suspected of sorcery, as she finds herself pulled between two clans who have a claim to the throne. With plenty to entice readers with conflict, sex, and more, "White As Bone, Red As Blood, The Storm God" will prove a very fun and gripping read that won't let the reader go until the very end.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Three Strikes
Diedra Cole
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450246224, $13.95,

When the deck is stacked against you can find life quite hard to overcome. "Three Strikes: A Soldier's Story" is a memoir of Diedra Cole who shares her experience of life as an African American Disabled Woman, who states that each of these adjectives grants her difficulty in life and everything else about her. Calling herself a spiritual warrior, she shares her story of overcoming the challenge of life to find meaning and happiness when all are against her. "Three Strikes" is a fine read, very much worth considering.

Pretty People Are Highly Flammable
Gerry Walker
Privately Published
9780578051826, $13.95,

A childhood is nothing in the face of corrupting success. "Pretty People Are Highly Flammable" brings together a group of childhood friends who find themselves surging up society in high society Nashville, but success comes with a price, as lies, deceit, and betrayal lurk everywhere, leaving love and friendship kicked to the side. And soon, dead bodies will enter the picture. "Pretty People Are Highly Flammable" is hard to put down, very highly recommended reading.

Lost & Found
Charles Samuel Betts
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781456721466, $18.00,

Love's challenges come with living life. "Lost & Found" is a collection of stories tied to romance and emotion by psychologist Charles Samuel Betts who crafts stories of people coming to terms with their emotional issues and conquering them through their own power. With a strong message, "Lost & Found" is to be considered for anyone seeking uplifting stories of overcoming one's problem and finding something to love.

Georgia Justice Journey to Faith
Jackie Carpenter
Xulon Press
2180 West State Road 434, Suite 2140, Longwood, FL 32779
9781612157689, $14.99,

Falsely accused, it can be hard to find hope in bleakness. "Georgia Justice: Journey to Faith" is a novel based on a true story following Jackie Carpenter, a mother of a man accused of murder. Following her story of praying for miracle of finding justice of her son, she shares a story of prayer, faith, and hoping for the best. Telling his story in completion with some dramatization, "Georgia Justice" is well worth considering for those looking for stories of faith.

The Cleveland Rutters
Meredith Ann Rutter
Privately Published
9780557948987, $25.00,

The stories of our families are similar, but different enough to peak our curiosity. "The Cleveland Rutters: One Daughter's Retrospection" is a tribute, memoir, and biography blended into one as daughter Meredith Ann Rutter remembers her family and the changes they faced as the New England family faced life together, offering a realistic picture of family life in the 1950s and 1960s. "The Cleveland Rutters" is worth considering for familial memoirs, highly recommended.

Sandy Cohen
All Things That Matter Press
9780984621699, $16.99,

The journey is far more exciting than the destination. "Revelations" is a fast paced and fun adventure following Manny Markovitz and Abis as the duo search for Manny's lost boss Willy Love. All Around the world, their journey is one that never proves boring. A fun read all the way through, "Revelations" is to be considered highly for general fiction readers.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Those Radio Days
A. S. Merwin
Privately Published
9780557243310, $15.99,

Before television and the internet captivated the youth, radio held them as their media sensation. "Those Radio Days" tells the story of a time long gone, where everything seemed so clean and pristine when in fact that's exactly what it was not. Author A.S. Merwin brings readers to a novel following a young man coming to terms with his life and what path he must take to succeed, and the reality of his dreams. "Those Radio Days" is a fun read, that will grip readers and refuse to let them go.

The Last Californio
Robert Sanabria
Paraguas Books
9780956578655, $16.95,

The battle against corruption is a struggle that rings more true than ever in today's world. "The Last Californio" tells the story of Gar Montalvo, a Mexico City Journalist who faced familial annihilation with him as the only survivor by the order of a government minister. Across international borders, he struggles to survive and bring down a corrupt system, and gain something that resembles justice. "The Last Californio" is an exciting blend of intrigue and thriller, highly recommended.

Reflective Sympathy
James H. Graham
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781456740337, $17.98,

Love has many types and stories. "Reflective Sympathy: True Love Story" is a memoir from James H. Graham, as he tells his story and how he found love and how it wasn't a long blissful experience but filled endlessly with challenge and more before becoming something resembling broken. Devoted and honest, "Reflective Sympathy" is a read that should ring true with many who have faced love and loss.

The Cursed Man
Keith Rommell
Sunbury Press
9781934597033, $14.95,

When death touches everyone you meet, you're not going to become much of a people person. "The Cursed Man" tells the story of Alister Kunkle, a man who seems to invite death upon everyone he meets. One stalwart psychologist, Dr. Anna Lee, is undeterred by the threat of death and finds there is more to Alister than meets the eye, as author Keith Rommell tells a story of a man far from the world and the effects of a believed curse. "The Cursed Man" is a thoughtful and riveting read that will prove very difficult to put down.

Zombiestop Parade
Richard Buzzell
Privately Published
9781461051985, $13.99,

As the world falls apart, reason will find itself under constant attack. "Zombiestop Parade" is a novel from Richard Buzzell as he tells a world where money is the icon and trying to sustain the world with reason finds itself pulled apart by extremists. With a certain patriotism of America being able to stand up to any stupidity and find its way, "Zombiestop Parade" is a unique and timely novel, highly recommended.

When Will It End
J. Rouleau
Privately Published
9781449974268, $13.95,

Far from reality, far from home. "When Will It End" is the story of a middle aged man who struck with an accident, and relays the events of the coma, not from the world around him, but through his journey through his coma and trying to make it back to consciousness and the life he left behind. A unique story of realizing the reality of life, "When Will it End" is a simple yet poignant read with a strong message.

Michael J. Carson

Clark's Bookshelf

Kit Carson: The Life of an American Border Man
David Remley
University of Oklahoma Press
9780806141725 $24.95

Kit Carson's life and escapades are chronicled by David Remley as Volume 27 in the Oklahoma Western Biographies series. A glimpse into the 1800's makes the reader realize that though times are difficult today, they are not nearly as rough as they were when our country was being molded and shaped during a by-gone era when the means of transportation was horse and mule.

Populations grew and the immigrants who came to America found that opportunity was beyond the borders of the eastern states. This book takes us to the land of opportunity that the Scots and Irish sought in order to make a life for their families. Hard times and oppression was left behind in their native lands, or so they thought. Farming and living off the land was available in their new homeland, but it necessitated cutting trees, clearing fields, and fighting off Indians who were being displaced by the newcomers.

It was in this climate that Kit Carson was born into a family whose father had died when he was a youngster. He was signed on as an apprentice to a saddle maker by his mother, but in his teenage years promptly joined a group which was migrating to the West.

One of the most fascinating aspects of this biography is the dispelling of myths which surrounded Kit's interaction with Indian tribes, ruffians, and those who endangered peace among the new settlers. Remley's research has brought into this biography a better understanding of what happened during Kit Carson's life. There are many "dime novels" which fantasied what he did. These books were sold mostly in Europe to an audience which wanted to read about what it was like to live in the 'Wild West'. What Remley has delivered is a realistic story which incorporates some newly discovered documents which were commented upon by Kit Carson. Kit Carson was educated in the practical side of getting along with Indians and how to negotiate with them, but what was astounding is the fact Kit could not read! Yet, he had become a Lt. Col. in the army of the United States.

Carson's ability to ride, communicate with the Indians, and know the land made him invaluable to the army. Often he was placed in situations which made his expertise indispensable in the resolution of extreme conflict.

This is an excellent book for all who want to know more about the old west. There are two maps which show the trail route west from New Mexico to California. Interestingly, the maps follow what we know of as Route 66 today. A four star book!

The Bronco Bill Gang
Karen Holiday Tanner and John D. Tanner, Jr.
University of Oklahoma Press
9780806141657 $29.95

The "Rip-roaring West" had both its heroes and villains. "The Bronco Bill Gang" was made up of several villains who just chose to be on the other side of the lawmen. Karen Holiday Tanner is the author of "Doc Holiday: A Family Portrait. John D. Tanner is a Professor of History at Palomar College, San Marcos, California. Both are recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wild West History Association. They have written numerous articles and four books, including "Last of the Old-Time Outlaws: The George West Musgrave Story."

Meticulously researched and footnoted is this new book and the first book which narrates the short and bloody career of "Bronco Bill" Walters and his gang. Some biographies are so factual they do not give you the feeling of what it was like to have been there. However, this book is one which questions what had been written by some in newspapers and their motivation with regard to castigating Bronco Bill as being involved in almost every crime that had taken place. Hearsay kept him in jail several times for long stays based upon newspaper accounts or unsubstantiated accusations by some who were facing the gallows for their own misdeeds.

Criminal lawyers will especially like the description of one of the trials which found Bill not guilty of several crimes, including the shooting of a sheriff! His attorney raised reasonable doubt as a defense by claiming the key witnesses were not able to definitely say he was the culprit. Also, his alibi of being out of town stood up for the jury's finding of his innocence. Our intrepid authors seemed to doubt his story and proffered some very interesting anecdotal theories of their own!

Another interesting feature of this biographical sketch is the exploration of how laws were enacted to thwart the commission of train robberies. Each of the states in the territorial west had to enact legislation which made sure the train robbers were punished severely for their crimes. For a time, the authors point out, this worked, that is until the juries got involved and somehow refused to mete out harsh sentences to the wrong doers.

Of great interest are the photographs taken in 1898 and those which may have been taken a little later, but they all clearly depicted that by-gone era. Bronco Bill and his gang criss-crossed the American Southwest shooting, robbing, and killing until they were caught by a Wells Fargo posse in 1898.

"The Bronco Bill Gang" is a realistic and well told story which is a bit gutsier than "Hop- a-Long" Cassidy played by Bill Boyd in the old Western movies that chased villainous criminals on horseback. This is a 4 star book and is highly recommended.

The Rich and The Dead
Edited by: Nelson DeMille
Grand Central Publishing
9780446555876 $24.99

Normally, a collection of short stories will turn most people away from reading them, unless they are exceptionally well done. "The Rich and The Dead," is one of those anthologies which is a collection chosen from 200 submissions made by members of the Mystery Writers of America organization. Qualifications are strictly adhered to for membership and those who are granted access to this esteemed society must have demonstrated an ability to write exciting mysteries.

This collection of tales is edited by Nelson DeMille who made the final selection of which ones would be included. His ability is beyond question, since he had been president of the organization 35 years ago and has written 14 published novels in his own right. Fittingly, one of his short stories leads off the book. "Death Benefits" is extremely well written carrying with it a twisted ending. It seems that this story sets the tone for the rest of the book and readers will find themselves cavorting around with the rich or those who had been rich and were on the verge of losing what was left of their fortunes.

What is particularly nice is you can read one story and set aside the rest to enjoy another time. Each section is completely different from the others and has some surprises. If you have read some of the classic mystery stories from authors like Edgar Allen Poe, you will not be disappointed in this collection. Yearly, the organization recognizes outstanding contributions to mystery writing by presentation of an Edgar!

When we read some of today's genre of authors they often use terse language which seems to be the norm rather than the exception. With that caveat in mind, some of the stories are definitely adult, others are not. If you feel squeamish about some scenarios, you can easily pass over them and go to the next. That is what I like about anthologies!

The submissions came from Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Harley Jane Kozak, and S. J. Rozen to name a few. At any given time you will find one of these authors on the best seller lists for their mystery novels.

Confrontation is the by-word in most of these stories. Death is a strange theme, but once you start reading it is very compelling to see who shall live and who shall die. Fresh and exciting are most of the stories, but there are a couple which leave you wondering why they were included.

Overall, this is a book you can take on a trip or pick-up and put-down at your leisure. DeMille has selected an unusual collection of macabre tales of real people who just happen to either kill or be killed. This book is highly recommended and is a four star read.

Clark Isaacs

Daniel's Bookshelf

The Reversal
Michael Connelly
Little, Brown and Company
A Division of the Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316069489 $27.99

I have following Michael Connelly for some time, and I enjoy his interesting main characters in his crime novels from detective Harry Bosch to defense attorney Mickey Haller, and crime reporter Jack McEvoy. It is no wonder that his books make the best selling lists, while now more of his stories make the movie grade too. The Lincoln Lawyer being his latest example of a movie based on a book by Michael Connelly. Blood Work was an earlier one starring Clint Eastwood.

Defense attorney Mickey Haller crosses the table in this case to work in the prosecution on a case requested by the LA District Attorney of Los Angeles County. He is to do battle to handle this case against a convicted child killer Jason Jessup, who was imprisoned for twenty-four years and is granted a retrial based on the new DNA evidence. Haller will agree if gets to use his investigator Harry Bosch, and his second chair will be deputy DA Maggie McPherson. Once that becomes settled the political situations of the case escalate against a defense attorney who has been using the media to try the case.

Bosch searches for the runaway eyewitness who was the key to Jessup's original conviction, however the rest of the case has long since gone cold. Jessup has been allowed to be out on bail and his whereabouts of his night activities have been strange to those from the police to keep surveillance on him. The situation puts the element of danger to fall back on the watchers of the alleged killer Jason Jessup. The outcome creates a cat and mouse game. The result might create danger falling on the innocent, while exploring the real truth to prevent a possible reversal of the first verdict.

Michael Connelly is the author of the bestselling Harry Bosch series of crime noves, He also has written another main series featuring Mickey Haller including The Lincoln Lawyer, The Brass Verdict, and The Reversal and his latest novel The Fifth Witness. Connelly has the Jack McEvoy series with The Poet and The Scarecrow. The other novels of his include Blood Work, Void Moon, and Chasing the Dime. I eagerly await his latest effort and enjoy catching up on all his previous crime novels.

Tick Tock
James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge
Little, Brown and Company
A Division of the Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316037914 $27.99

I have seen some of Patterson's novels made into movies and read some of his story telling from the Alex Cross series. This one is my first one with Michael Bennett and was looking for a good story with a fast pace to read to dabble back into his stories. I am enjoying a story with a minor thread and the main one which has several copycated killers or if one likes sociopathe adversaires for the main character of this series to apprehend.

It appears that crime has reached New York City in the form of three, the Son of Sam, the Werewolf of Wisteria, and the Mad Bomber have all reappeared to thrust havoc in their forms of style of crime.The city call on Detective Michael Bennett, and pulls him away from a vacation seaside retreat on a much needed time-out with his ten adopted children grandfather, and their beloved nanny, Mary Catherine. It not only tears apart their vacation, but it does put the entire family open to attack while Bennett is the protagonist to battle these supposedly fiends.The clock is definitely ticking. Bennett is aware who he is the enemy, and it produces more than scares as the body count climbs.

Bennett does call on help with a former friend and colleague FBI agent Emily Parker to work and brainstorming with her ressources. As the another type crime unfolds, he learns the discovery that reveals the killer's pattern, and the bigger picture of protagonist's dangerous plan. The results leave vunerability to be any one close to him, and those he is trained to serve and protect.

James Patterson has more New York bestsellers than any other writer, and his first novel The Thomas Berryman Number won the Edgar Award in 1977. Patterson's series include Alex Cross, Woman's Murder Club, and Detective Michael Bennett. He also has written books for young readers including the award-winning Maximum Ride, Daniel X, along with the Witch and Wizard series. His collaborations with other authors are numerous, since he has been joined with some of them on his adult books, and books for all ages. A wealth of this helpful team work enabled James Patterson to write more books, and he also launched a website to give adults an easy way to locate the very books for kids. I will continue to dabble to locate a good story, and fast story. I find my readings take me through so many books, which do not make it easy to include prose stylists novels. It all helps me enjoy my reading past time to discover an author, who does it well to tell a story in nice quick time like James Patterson. I can find time to explore his offerings when I seek such a book.

Daniel Allen

Gary's Bookshelf

Hannah's List
Debbie Macomber
225 Duncan Mill Road Don Mills
Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
9780778329299 $7.99

On the one year anniversary of the death of Dr. Michael Everett's wife Hannah, he receives a letter from his brother in law. Written by Hannah, it tells Michael that she wants him to consider one of three women to marry because she does not want him to be alone the rest of his life. He at first does not believe he can ever find anyone to replace the only love of his life. With some coaxing by his brother-in-law and others, he does carry out his wife's last request. Macomber based "Hannah's List" on a situation that was told to the author by some friends. Macomber makes the story come alive with believable characters and realistic conflicts that drive the story along. "Hannah's List though marketed as a romance, is a character driven tale that should please any reader who wants a fast paced enjoyable read. It is easy to see why Macomber has such a huge following because she tells a great story that is filled with memorable characters. A pleasure to read.

Did Success Spoil Jayne Mansfield?
Frank Feruccio with Damien Santroni
Foreward by Kimmie Rosenthal founder of the Jayne Mansfield Online Fanclub
Outskirts Press Inc Denver, Colorado
9781432761233, $29.95

Did Success Spoil Jayne Mansfield? tells the tragic story of one woman's sad life to become a major star. Mansfield would do almost anything to gain the fame she sought. Her life was a series of tragedies unlike other women who were placed on a higher level. The author tells many things Mansfield did to compete against other leading sex symbols. even dying her hair blonde. She wanted fame and fortune and she worked hard to get it, unlike others who had it all handed to them and did not value what that had. Her unfortunate death in a massive car collision that could have been avoided was tragic. The title of the book was a play on words of one of her major movies "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?" Ferruccio, a fan of the actress, has done a great job of telling her story. "Did Success Spoil Jayne Mansfield? will appeal to anyone who wants to know more about this actress.

The Happy Hollisters
Jerry West; illustrated by Helen S. Hamilton
The Svenson Group, Inc.
2990 Northfield Drive, Tarpon Springs, FL 34688
9781452865065 $9.95

Jerry West originally wrote "The Happy Hollisters" and 32 other novels in the series back in the 1950s and the 1960s. Like many books of that time, they have been out of print until now when the Svenson Group has begun to re publish the novels and they plan to bring back all 33 books. So far there are three back in print. "The Happy Hollisterrs" is a fun book with a series of mysteries that Pete, Pam, Ricky, Holly, and Sue help solve. Also there is Joey Brill the neighborhood trouble maker. The writing is fast with believable characters and fun situations. "The Happy Hollistes and the 32 other novels now have a whole new audience, to appeal to of young adults and adults who read them as children.

The Beatles Discography Volume One The 60's
Stephen E Donnelly
Outskirts Press Inc.
Denver, Colorado
9781432769246, $69.95

Donnelly has researched every disc of the Beatles from the very beginning to the year 1970. "The Beatles Discography"is the most complete guide to every record recorded in that time frame. There are pictures of the covers of albums, lists of songs, year it was released and lots more info. No Beatle fan should miss "The Beatles Discrography."

Now You See Her
Joy Fielding
1230 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY 10020
9781416585312, $25.99

Fielding is back with "Now You See Her," another great rollercoaster thrilling ride of suspense. Marcy Taggart's life is a shambles. Two years she lost a daughter in a freak accident. Now divorced she is in Ireland, when she is convinced she has seen what appears to her to be her daughter. She cannot get anyone to believe her. No one wants to believe it is at all possible that her daughter could be alive. Fielding builds the suspense in generous doses and readers will not be disappointed. Fielding once again shows why she is at the top of the list. Fans of suspense novels will love "Now You See Her."

Playing for Pizza
John Grisham
9780440244714 $7.95,

"Playing for Pizza" starts with a quarterback who played for the Cleveland Browns until they lose in the AFC championship game to Denver. His career is now coming to an end. He hears there is a team in Italy that is looking for a player in the NFL to take the helm of the team and lead it. Grisham shows why he is considered to be one of the best master story tellers with this great novel. It is not a legal thriller but a very good story with likable characters and a very fast paced writing style. "Playing for Pizza" is an often overlooked novel that should please both sports fans and readers of Grisham.

Unforgettable At Any Speed
Quixote Press
3544 Blakslee Road, Wever, Iowa 52658
9781571665638, $9.95

We have been in love with the automobile since it was created. In "Unforgettable At Any Speed" 111 tales by the 60 authors show us why that is still true. The stories are funny and revealing by many talented authors who have many different perceptions that all are pleasurable reading. Any car buff or fan of "Car Talk" on NPR should love reading "Unforgettable At Any Speed."

10th Anniversary
James Patterson & Maxine Paetro
Little Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780316036269, $27.95

Lindsay Boxer gets married in10th Anniversary" and is on a new case. Meanwhile Yuki Castellano is prosecuting her biggest case and she is determined to win it no matter what. These are two of the women in the Women's Murder Club. There are also new conflicts between several of the members and the writing once again is fast paced that rushes the story along to the exciting end. Fans of Patterson and his other writers will love "10th Anniversary."

The Panic Zone
Rick Mofina
225 Duncan Mill Road Don Mills
Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
9780778327943 $7.99 www.RickMofina

I've read other books in the series and "The Panic Zone" is another great read. Mofina is a great story teller with page turning suspenseful tales that grab the reader from the first page and lead all the way to the end. Jack Gannon is back pursuing the clues that take him to South America. The story unfolds quickly and the conflicts and characters drive the story along until the page turning end. "The Panic Zone is for anyone who wants a fast and furious suspenseful novel.

Race War America's Worst Nightmare
La-Temus Marshall
Outskirts Press Inc.
Denver, Colorado
9781422767204, $11.95,

The author tells in "Race War America's Worst Nightmare" a what if novel that is a cautionary tale which hopefully will never happen. The United States has fallen on hard times. To fix the problems a politician decides to put the races and ethnic groups into separate zones of the country. The idea for the novel is not so far fetched as many readers might think. I won't tell what happens but the author has thought out his tale very well with a convincing argument why this kind of thinking would not work. The work moves along to its conclusion. "Race War Americas Worst Nightmare" is for the nay sayers who believe this could never happen.

Parent Talk The Nine Conversations to Have with Your Aging Loved Ones
G Scott Middleton
Xulon Elite
9781612155715, $15.95

As our loved ones get older we are faced with many different things we are going to have to do for them. "Parent Talk" gives us many different options we need to be aware of to take care of loved ones as they age. Some of the issues the author tosses out are when is it time for an elder person to stop driving, nursing homes and health care options, brining in someone to help at home, how to try to stay healthy, acovers. The author also provides a glossary of terms and agencies that can be very helpful. The writing is in easy to understand terms and there is a lot of helpful information provided. "Parent Talk" is an excellent resource for anyone facing this type of situation.

Ghosts of St. Augustine
Dave Lapham
Pineapple Press Inc
P.O. Box 3889, Sarasota, Florida 34230
9781561641239, $8.95

America's oldest city is filled with stories of supernatural things going on. "Ghosts of St. Augustine" is one of a series of books from Pineapple Press that details many bizarre encounters with ghosts in different locations throughout the city. Most of the meetings are harmless but all are very interesting and they all give a new perception that St Augustine is a ghost ridden town. Lapham has researched thousands of accounts and tells the stories in easy to read tales. "Ghosts of St. Augustine" is great research material for anyone writing fictional horror stories or any fan of ghost stories.

Remembering Fort Myers The City of Palms
Prudy Taylor Board
The History Press
Charleston, SC 29403
9781596291010 $18.99,

Prudy Taylor Board reveals many different little known facts in "Remembering Fort Myers." Some of the things she exposes are how the city was named, the many movers and shakers who built the city, historical homes of interest, and famous people who lived there. The writing style is easy to read and readers will enjoy learning the history of the city. "Remembering Fort Myers is a valuable resource for those who want to know about that part of the state of Florida or for anyone who is thinking about moving to the area.

Portfolio Volume II
Jasmine Becket-Griffith
P.O. Box 470932 Celebration, Fl 34747-0932
9780557605996, $29.50

"Portfolio Volume II" picks up where Volume I left off with many charming pieces by a very talented artist. Most striking are two things: the striking colors and the eyes of the girl in each of the depictions that are all so different. Many of the pieces that are in the volumes also show up in her card series "Oracle of Shadows & Light" With the cards there is a little book inside the box of cards that tells a little more about the works. "Portfolio Volume II and "Oracle of Shadows & Light" are bound to please the Scifi/ Fantasy fans who attend conventions and are alway looking for different works of art to purchase.

Mr. Monk on the Road
Lee Goldberg
375 Hudson Street New York, NY 10014
9780451232113, $22.95

The Monk brothers are on a road trip that is just hilarious . The two siblings with all their quirks are traveling in an RV. Along the way Adrian and Ambrose solve some cases and find out all about life in the newest installment of this popular series of novels. "Mr. Monk on the Road" is another laugh out loud mystery bound to please the millions of Monk fans.

An Agent Speaks a Primer for Unpublished Writers
Joan West
Fireside Publications
1004 San Felipe Lane, The Villages, Florida 32159
9780981467214 $9.95

Joan West who is an author, publisher, agent gives in "An Agent Speaks a Primer for Unpublished Writers" practical advise to novice writers who need to know about this industry. West explains the process of getting an agent, finding the right agent, self publishing a book, marketing, and lots of other things new writers do not know. "An Agent Speaks a Primer for Unpublished Writers is a wealth of information for new writers to help them avoid making costly mistakes.

The Highly Effective Habits of 5 Successful Authors
Outskirts Press Inc.
Denver, Colorado
9781432760915, $9.95

The tips by the authors are insightful and practical ways to market their works to different audiences. One thing one of the authors forgot is, it is not all done alone. Those who helped you are to be recognized for their contributions. "The Highly Effective Habits of 5 Successful Authors" is a book that all authors should read about how to effectively market their books.

Echo Nouveau The Art And Life of a Working Girl 1995-2010
Echo Chernik
9780615459516, $39.99

"Echo Nouveau The Art and Life of a Working Girl 1995-2010" is a three level book by a very talented artist. On one degree it is the story of one woman's journey to being an award winning artist. On another it is a profile of the work of advertising campaigns that she has done. Many of them are very familiar to readers. The last stage is a book for novice artists to learn how and where to market their artwork. "Echo Nouveau The Art and Life of a Working Girl 1995-2010" shows the remarkable achievement of one artist and is a title that is a perfect fit for anyone's coffee table.

The Seeker Is the Sought. Poems of Lovers' Joys, Lovers' Empowerments
Marvin Richard Montney
Outskirts Press Inc.
Denver, Colorado
9781432702267.95, $15.95

"The Seeker Is the Sought" is a great title but I did not understand one single poem the poet has in this collection. Some of them I read several times to try to get some idea of what he is saying and could not get anything from any of his work. "The Seeker is the Sought" is sure to find an audience in the literary circuit because there is so much symbolism.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

The Complaints
Ian Rankin
Reagan Arthur Books
c/o Hachette Book Group,
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316039741 $24.99 800-759-0190

This new novel by Ian Rankin is what is hoped is the first in a new series, introducing Inspector Malcolm Fox. It must be said without further ado that John Rebus, declared by the author to have made his last appearance in print [newly published, that is], will be sorely missed. But his new protagonist promises to be equally splendid and sure to quickly find a place in the hearts of Mr. Rankin's myriad fans.

There are many similarities between the two Edinburgh cops, among these a history of drinking and a broken marriage. Fox has been five years dry; he has a father in a care home, and a sister in what can best be described as an abusive relationship, both being important in his life, but the latter becoming central to his job. He has worked for the past 4-1/2 years for the Complaints and Conduct department of Lothian & Borders Police, more particularly the Professional Standards Unit, referred to variously as The Complaints or, more informally, The Dark Side, the equivalent of the Internal Affairs Bureau in the US, cops who investigated other cops. The "other cops" tend to look at those in The Complaints with disdain, and Fox is told at one point "Stick to watching the detectives, Malcolm. Let us other cops do the real work."

Fox's nickname was "Foxy," "but he didn't think of himself that way. 'A bear of a man' - that's the way one of his previous bosses had described him. Slow but steady, and only occasionally to be feared." The supporting cast in the current book includes colleagues Tony Kaye and Joe Naysmith, CID head "Bad Billy" Giles, DCS Adam Traynor, and DC Gilchrist and DS Annie Inglis, both with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Dept. [CEOP]. Fox is assigned to assist CEOP in its investigation of a suspected paedophile within CID, of one of whose members he had just successfully concluded an investigation. But a conflict of interest develops when that same suspect heads an investigation of a murder very close to home. Fox finds there is more than one person in his circle who may not be what [s]he seems, and as things go on he doesn't know who he can trust.

The book jacket describes the novel is "an inquiry into personal morality, private vice, friendship, and the state of the nation." A grand claim, perhaps, but no less true for that. Just as wonderful a read as the author's previous novels, Rebus or otherwise, it is highly recommended, and I say without hesitation "Welcome Malcolm Fox!"

Scared to Death
Wendy Corsi Staub
c/o HarperCollins, 10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061895074 $7.99 800-242-7737

The first of several murders in Wendy Corsi Staub's newest thriller occurs on page 7, and the suspense hardly lets up from that point on.

Marin Quinn gave up her newborn son at the insistence of her husband, Garvey Quinn. Elsa Cavalon adopted that same child, and is now on the brink of finalizing the adoption of a seven-year-old girl, Renny. The horror that binds these two women is that Jeremy, the biological son of one and adoptive son of the other, was kidnapped while playing outside of his home fifteen years earlier; less than a year ago, Mike Fantoni, the detective the Cavalons hired after Jeremy was first kidnapped and who vowed not to rest until the boy had been found, tells them that Jeremy had been taken overseas to Mumbai India and murdered shortly afterwards. Garvey Quinn, a man who had hoped to become the Governor of the State of New York, is now serving a prison term for having engineered that crime [among others].

But the nightmare of that loss seems to be repeating itself, as the new family of each of these women is threatened, and no part of their present lives seems to be outside the reach of a determined and very deranged mind.

The book alternates p.o.v. between the two women at its heart [as well as that of the killer, from time to time], as they variously run to the suburbs of Boston and an Upper West Side aerie in Manhattan. But try as they might, they each find that there seems to be no safe haven.

A tale of vengeance with a stunning twist as the conclusion nears, "Scared to Death" is great escapist fare, one you'll want to read with all the lights on.

Someone's Watching
Sharon Potts
Oceanview Publishing
2817 West End Ave., Nashville, TN 37203
9781608090136 $25.95 615-297-9875

Sharon Potts' second novel opens with terrifying scenes of the worst nightmare of every parent of a high-school-age girl: Two young girls, in South Beach, Florida during their Spring break, decide to drive down to Key Largo for one night of rebellion against parental curbs before their freshman year in college, with the worst possible results.

The scene then shifts to Robbie Ivy [nee Roberta Brooks], her kitten, Matilda, her transvestite friend and neighbor Gabriele. A young woman with commitment issues [both personal and professional] who was formerly a CPA and now works as a bartender at a trendy South Beach club, Robbie answers her door to find there a man she hadn't seen in 18 years, when she was seven years old - the father she had not seen or heard from since. Just as startling is the reason for his visit: He is searching for the 18-year-old half-sister she didn't know existed, who has disappeared. The reader finds out quickly that the teenager described in the opening pages is none other than this hitherto-unknown sister.

The author poses, throughout this novel, the potentially trite question of what exactly is "family," then proceeds to answer it in a fully satisfying manner that is anything but trite. The author brings back in this follow-up to her first novel, "In Their Blood," Jeremy Stroeb, Robbie's erstwhile boyfriend now her [platonic] best friend, with whom she shared traumatic events in the earlier book that included the murder of Jeremy's parents just over a year ago.

The South Beach club scene is exemplified by this description: "Glittering people were everywhere, like glowing algae at the bottom of the sea. There was an elaborate soundstage on the dance floor and a DJ manipulating the electronics with the dexterity of a brain surgeon."

Robbie is driven to find her sister, in every sense of the word, and with Jeremy's help sets out to do just that, to her own peril. Neither she nor the reader knows who can be trusted, and who is the enemy, as bodies pile up. The suspense mounts as the glamorous facade is seen as a trap for the unsuspecting and the naive. Recommended.

The Nomination
William G. Tapply
Skyhorse Publishing
307 W. 36th St., NY, NY 10018
9781602399907 $24.95 212-643-6816

"The Nomination" is a posthumously released novel by William Tapply, and a terrific one it is.

Thomas Larrigan is about to be nominated by the American President to fill the seat on the U. S. Supreme Court of an associate justice on the verge of retirement. He, of course, needs to be vetted before the inevitable Senate confirmation hearings, and even before his nomination is publicly announced. At first blush his bona fides appear to be impeccable: A youthful-looking 59 years old, handsome despite his black eye patch, he was a Marine lieutenant, decorated Vietnam vet, who had been awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart; he has a reputation as an "intrepid prosecutor, tough on criminals, elected twice as crime-busting District Attorney, once as state Attorney General, self-respected Federal District Court judge, loving family man." [It doesn't hurt that he occasionally plays golf with the President.]

As the president is told, "Larrigan's perfect. Almost too good to be true." Of course, as the author points out, "if you looked close enough, you'd find a skeleton in every closet in America. If you looked close enough, you wouldn't find anybody who'd qualify for the Supreme Court. Old dusty skeletons, long dead. Skeletons can't tell stories." Some of those skeletons are not quite dead, it soon appears. In the process, several lives are linked in disparate ways, some characters confronting their past, others running from theirs, including events from the Vietnam era that had/have life-changing effects. The author skillfully weaves these threads together, and when this reader thought she knew what was coming, unexpected plot developments proved me wrong.

Others caught in the web of the vetting process include Jessie Church, who had worked for 18 months as an undercover cop in Baltimore, now working as a private investigator; Simone Bonet, cult film goddess who has dropped out of sight; Mac Cassidy, celebrity ghostwriter recovering from the death a year earlier of his wife and now trying to raise their teenage daughter by himself; among others. Each of these is a fully fleshed-out character brought to wonderful life in the hands of Mr. Tapply. This is a beautifully written tale of love and loss, full of suspense but still managing to tug at the heart. Nearing the end of the book, I did something I had never done before: I had gripped the bottom corner of the page so tightly in my fingers that a small piece was ripped out.

I felt it might be appropriate to include here the following, contained in an epilogue to this novel, in part wrapping up the tale and spoken by Mac Cassidy, but which I suspect were also Mr. Tapply's thoughts about his own writing process: "Eight hundred words a day, through sleet and snow and flu-like symptoms. That's how books got written. Not in great bursts of inspiration. You wrote a book one painful sentence at a time. Eight hundred words a day, which was a lot of sentences, whether it took an hour or ten hours." It is our loss that this is the last book from this author we will have the pleasure of reading. It is, obviously, highly recommended.

Agent X
Noah Boyd
William Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061826986 $24.99 800-242-7737

Kate Bannon, the Assistant Director of the FBI who readers, and ex-FBI Agent Steve Vail first met in this author's "The Bricklayer," returns, in fact, in the first sentence on the first page of this, the second in the series. And a most welcome return it is, of those protags and the series itself. I am delighted to report that all the taut writing, suspense and wonderful characters of the initial book in the series are abundantly present in "Agent X" as well.

Vail, a maverick who can't/won't confirm to rules, was fired by the FBI five years previously. He has since then been working at least nominally as a bricklayer [thus the title of the first book] and had met Kate in LA when they worked together on a case which had a successful conclusion, mostly due to his efforts. [He was an 'independent contractor' of sorts in that instance for the FBI.] They had dated for a while, until Kate broke it off. Beyond the delightful banter, the two make for a terrific team as the FBI persuades Vail to head up their investigation into finding a number of agents to whom vital US secrets are just a commodity to be bartered. As if that weren't enough, Steve is asked by an agent who had been Vail's partner several years back to assist with a case involving the disappearance of a female intelligence analyst. As the tale unfolds, one thing becomes clear: Very little is as it seems.

The Vail/Bannon relationship is an ambivalent one. As is the Vail/FBI deal. Bannon tells Vail: "You have advanced degrees. The director has offered you complete autonomy if you'll come back to the Bureau, but instead you choose physical labor just so you won't have to take orders. . . Not everyone who takes orders for a living is a mortal enemy of Steven Vail." The cleverly constructed sleuthing [which was a challenge at times for this reader, I must admit], and the occasional philosophical ruminations, make for a fascinating read


Known to Evil
Walter Mosley
c/o Penguin, 375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780451232137 $15.99 800-847-5515

Leonid Trotter McGill is a 54-year-old African-American man, an amateur boxer known to have had his "finger in every dishonest business in the city" including being a fixer for the mob, who is trying to turn his life around, now working as a private detective. He describes his marriage as "twenty years of unfaithfulness on both sides of the bed;" he has fathered only one of the two sons he has raised with his wife, she of the "gorgeous Scandinavian face." At present both his wife and his girlfriend have taken on new boyfriends, and his two sons are involved in some kind of trouble. And that's only his personal life.

He is hired [although insisting it will be a 'favor,' with no money to change hands other than expenses] by a very powerful man to find a young woman who it seems is being stalked, with no information except for an address; when he goes to that address it quickly becomes apparent that it is a crime scene where two dead bodies have been found. The ensuing investigation, by McGill and the police, is not a simple one; 'convoluted' would be an understatement, but one never loses interest for a minute. The woman he was sent to find was "a mystery and missing, the object of attention of a man who was as dangerous as any terrorist or government-trained assassin."

I must admit to only having read one of this author's prior books, which took place in an LA of earlier times. I found this novel, which takes place in contemporary New York City, more accessible, which probably says at least as much about me than about the author. But his evocation of present-day Manhattan is a vibrant one, as are his characters. His writing is enjoyable on so many levels: The frequent irony; the depiction of his protagonist as a deeply flawed man but one with his own immutable moral code; the wonderful names he gives his characters: e.g., a young man who I want to describe as a computer genius except that wouldn't do him justice, with the two nicknames of "Tiny" [because he isn't] and "Bug," [no idea]; his father was self-named "Tolstoy;" an ex-cop's middle name is Proteus; an assassin friend is named Hush; his brother is Nikita; he himself has named his sons Twilliam and Dmitri.

The writing is wonderful. When something bothers McGill, he describes it as "a feeling at the back of my mind, something that was burgeoning into consciousness like a vibrating moth pressing out from its cocoon." When he turned 49, the man who was a surrogate father to him gives him this wisdom: "When you hit your fifties life starts comin' up on ya fast . . . Before that time life is pretty much a straight climb. Wife looks up to you and the young kids are small enough, and the older kids smart enough, not to weigh you down. But then, just when you start puttin' on the pounds an' losin' your wind, the kids're expecting you to fulfill your promises and the wife all of a sudden sees every one of your flaws. Your parents, if you still got any, are getting' old and turnin' back into kids themselves. For the first time you realize that the sky does have a limit. You comin' to a rise, but when you hit the top there's another life up ahead of you and here you are - - just about spent."

Mr. Mosley has been called a master of contemporary noir, and I cannot disagree with that assessment. Highly recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

Brad Thor
Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
9781411608281 $9.99

Blowback is a fantasy action/adventure. You expect one dimensional characters and simplified good versus evil plots. Blowback is a grade above the average story in this genre. It has a slightly stronger grasp of reality and a flowing plotline. The minor weaknesses in the book are unnecessary caricatures that play to the bias of readers and which don't promote the plot plus the occasional scene change with missing details. The problems possibly result from the current push by publishers to pad the size on certain books as a sales tool. Cussler and other writers in this genre have a better feel for story length.

Scot Harvath is a counterterrorism specialist working for the President as an off-the-book operative who can cross jurisdictional lines that block access between various government agencies. His current task is to capture a vicious al-Qaeda operative. The terrorist happens to trap Harvath in a compromising position in front of TV cameras and he becomes a political target of a ruthless senator. The situation forces him to go even farther off-the-books and continue his work with even more limited direct help from the government. An arms dealer contacts the government with information but he will only talk to Harvath. This puts Harvath directly into the crosshairs of al-Qaeda and an even more powerful foe. The investigation leads to a secret weapon of mass destruction Hannibal had planned to use against Rome and into the heart of the Middle East.

Blowback is an escapist action/adventure that has enough depth to be slightly more mass market than the typical book in this genre. It is a great vacation read but don't expect anything more from it.

Harmonica for Dummies
Winslow Yerxa
Wiley Publishing, Inc.
111 River St., Hoboken, New Jersey 07030-5774
9780470337295 $21.99

The Dummies books and the Complete Idiot guides fill a key need in technical writing. They attempt, with various degrees of success, to translate technical information to the general public. Harmonica for Dummies was a very pleasant surprise in this market. It really does what it claims. It covers the basics and not so basics in a clear and easy way. It isn't a beginning music course for harmonicas but a very good manual on what a person needs to know to play and learn to make music on the instrument. It is also filled with background history and details, which is nearly enjoyable enough for someone to pick up the book for this reason alone. Yerxa has done a great job promoting and explaining his instrument to the general public.

If anyone wants to learn the harmonica, this is the first book they should get, even before picking up a harmonica. It gives great advice on purchasing, maintaining and repair the instrument as well as how to play it. The harmonica is an instrument you can carry anywhere and is cheap enough that nearly anyone can afford one. This makes it one of the most personalized instruments around and Yerxa is always conscious of this individuality. The book gives the information a person needs while letting the individual take it where he/she wants to go with it.

Harmonica for Dummies is a very easy recommendation.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

Atheist Manifesto: The Case Against Christianity, Judaism, and Islam
Michael Onfray, translated from the French by Jeremy Legatt
Arcade Publishing
307 West 57th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018
9781559708203 $25.00

Michael Onfray begins his Atheist Manifesto with a clear statement of his attitude toward the misinformed (p. 1): "I do not despise believers. I find them neither ridiculous nor pathetic, but I lose all hope when I see that they prefer the comforting fairy tales of children to the cruel hard facts of adults.... I experience ... compassion for the suffering, coupled with burning anger toward those who perpetrate the deception. No hatred for the man on his knees, but a fierce resolve never to collude with those who urge him to adopt this humiliating posture and keep him there. Who would not sympathize with the victim of fraud? And who would not approve of battling the perpetrators?" The only change I would have made in expressing an otherwise identical view is that I would have excluded from my sympathy and compassion dogmatic believers who boast of being incurable.

"Atheism is not therapy but restored mental health." (p. 4) As a recovered Catholic who once actually believed the insane doctrine that eating meat on Friday was a sin, I can personally confirm that being cured of the god delusion was indeed the recovery of my mental health.

"God is neither dead nor dying because he is not mortal. A fiction does not die, an illusion never passes away, a fairy tale does not refute itself." (p. 12) The Sky Fuhrer's apologists consistently try to refute Nietzsche's assertion that God is dead. But I have not encountered a single one who used the logical argument offered here by Onfray in support of their position. In fact it is not as self-evident as it seems. Zeus is dead. Jupiter is dead. God is refusing to get himself buried, but to the educated one-third of the human race, he is just as dead as his role models, and scholars like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris are digging his grave deeper with every passing year.

On the same page (149) Onfray or his translator uses both the scientifically neutral dating system, "BCE", and the offensively Christian "AD". Such a glaring inconsistency conjures up images of a Catholic atheist claiming that there is no God, and Mary is his mother.

Onfray consistently refers to Christianity and Islam as "monotheisms." Since the Christian pantheon is headed by a troika, and incorporates dozens of second-ranking gods called angels and devils and thousands of third-ranking gods called saints, all of which are immortal and have the ability to respond to bribes, flattery, and entreaties (the definition of a god), anyone who can regard it as monotheistic has been Manchurian Candidate-ized. Is Onfray truly incapable of recognizing that anyone who can rationalize that 1+1+1=1 is failing to put his brain in gear before engaging his tongue? Islam similarly has its host of minor deities. And Onfray's repeated description of Jewish sacred writings as "Torah" rather than "Tanakh" suggests that he is unaware of the difference. What he does get right is his recognition (p. 164) of the real meaning of the misnamed Ten Commandments: "thou, a Jew, shalt not kill Jews."

Atheist Manifesto, like the Humanist Manifesto, is a detailed delineation of the philosophy that it presents, without offering any evidence why atheism is right and theism is wrong. And unlike The God Delusion, it gives nontheists no quotable arguments to encourage them to come out of the closet, since it tells them nothing they did not already know. That is not to say that it is not useful. As a text for History 300, it explains everything about atheism that an undergraduate needs to understand. But that is all it does. So don't expect to see Onfray's name alongside those of Dawkins, Harris, Stenger, and Hitchens, as the educators who will eventually be recognized as significant contributors to the elimination of the god delusion from the face of the earth. If Onfray expects to be remembered in that context, he is deluding himself. His book can be recommended as a summary of useful knowledge, but not as a tool to help free curable believers.

Reasonable Atheism: A Moral Case for Respectful Disbelief
Scott F. Aiken & Robert B. Talisse
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst NY 14228-2119
9781616143831 $20.00

Round Earthers systematically fail to consider the astrologically serious defenses of the Flat Earth Society and flat-earth belief.

That is not quite what Scott Aiken and Robert Talisse equate with Reasonable Atheism. What they actually write (p. 87) is, "The New Atheists systematically fail to consider the philosophically serious defenses of religion and religious belief." They agree with the persons they denigrate as "New Atheists" (as if advancing facts that have been promulgated by nontheists for centuries is "new"), that the fairy tale character mistranslated in English bibles as "God" does not exist. But they contend that too much truth-telling, such as recognizing that, "religion poisons everything," that theology is "ignorance with wings," that religious beliefs are "addictions," and that the thought behind religious belief is "pathetic and contemptible," is counter-productive.

Aiken and Talisse are self-confessed philosophers. I doubt that they set out to prove the validity of Mark Twain's description of a philosopher as a blind man in a dark room searching for a black cat that is not there. But their discussion of the "ontological argument" for the existence of the god of religion and the rebuttals of it by Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens (pp. 79-83), goes a long way toward proving that Twain was too charitable.

The ontological argument in its most concise form is, "God is by definition perfect. Nonexistence is an imperfection. Therefore God exists." Dawkins recognized that circular argument as "infantile," a "mere word game," and the reasoning of a "childish wiseacre." Dennett pointed out that identical doubletalk could be used to prove that a perfect ice-cream sundae must exist. Hitchens described the argument as "traditional tripe" that could be refuted by "growing up." Being themselves professional double-talkers, the authors support their assertion that Dawkins, Dennett and Hitchens are wrong with five pages of what may be the most incomprehensible, inane, meaningless, and plain stupid doubletalk I have ever encountered. They assert that the ontological argument should have been disputed on its merits, as if that was not precisely what Dawkins, Dennett, and Hitchens did.

Aiken and Talisse recognize that there can be no such thing as blasphemy, since the god that could throw a tantrum if it is insulted does not exist. Yet at a time when even moderate theologians have stopped doing so, they capitalize all pronouns and possessive adjectives that refer to the Western world's favorite Sky Fuhrer. And even when they use the word "god" in a context that is clearly generic, they never fail to capitalize it. I would not accuse them of being terrified that, if they offend that nice Mr God, he/she/it will zap them with a thunderbolt. But could they be taking out insurance, hedging their bets? Or are they simply unaware of what today constitutes correct English? Their repeated use of run-on sentences, two principal clauses joined by a comma instead of a conjunction or a semicolon, points to such an explanation.

A and T argue that their status as former godworshippers is proof that (p. 34), "That someone believes what is false is almost never a sufficient reason to regard her as irrational or stupid, even if her belief is not only false but obviously so." As a recovered Catholic I am obliged to disagree. I was never a fundamentalist, and had no difficulty recognizing that, when scientific research says that the universe is over thirteen billion years old and the Judaeo-Christian bible says that the universe is less than seven thousand years old, the bible is unequivocally wrong. I had to rationalize that the bible's scientific illiteracy should be attributed to human error and did not disprove bible religion, and I agree with the authors that such rationalization was not "irrational or stupid." But I also believed that mass murder was evil when Hitler did it with gas chambers but not evil when a Master of the Universe did it with disease, famine, religious wars, natural disasters, transportation accidents, and old age. I submit that anyone who can believe that, "When God does it, it is not evil," is a practitioner of the undisciplined thinking usefully described by the metaphor, "insane."

Since the authors are practitioners of a discipline that does not have to get anything right, since two dissertations so diametrically incompatible that for either one to be valid the other must be incompetent nonsense can both receive PhDs from the same department of the same university in the same year, not surprisingly they are ignorant of facts known to even the most junior student of biblical analysis. For example, they appear to believe (p. 98) that Moses wrote the Pentateuch. When they ask (p. 196), "Does God suffer when His name is taken in vain?" they reveal their delusion that, to the author of the relevant commandment, "taking in vain," meant using the deity's name as an expletive, when in fact it meant, "You are not to swear in Yahweh's name anything that is untrue." And the absence from their bibliography of Ronald Aronson's Living Without God explains their credulous swallowing of the propaganda (p. 43) that, "atheists make up a tiny minority of the world's population." Atheists constitute 36 percent of the American population and, within a reasonable error of measurement, the same percentage of the world's population.

I do not question that A and T are considered competent in their own field. And if I ever want to fill 300 pages without saying anything and without anybody, including other double-talkers, recognizing that I am not saying anything, I will try to learn to write philosophy. After all, if they can do it, how hard can it be? As an example of my inexpertise in philosophical doubletalk (tautology), my answer to the question, "What is an atheist?" is, "A person who does not believe in any kind of god." The authors' response to the same question fills a 24-page chapter, and implies that even that is not a complete answer.

They also fill four pages discussing a hypothetical "Tom," a blockhead who, no matter how often or how definitively his dogma is blown out of the water, continues to parrot the same mantra over and over as if his disputants did no exist. Anyone who thinks that "Tom" is an exaggeration, and that nobody could be totally impervious to reality, cannot be familiar with such broken-record impersonators as H. S. Holding, Alister McGrath, Dinesh D'Souza, and Joseph Ratzinger.

But despite their never using a single paragraph when they could say the same thing in four pages, the authors make many valid points, often enough the same points made by the allegedly "new" atheists. They explain (p. 10) that, "Our argument is not that being an atheist makes one a splendid person, but that being an atheist does not make one a bad person." They recognize (p. 11) that, "God's existence is entirely irrelevant to morality." And in furtherance of that reality they add, "Our primary claim is that one must be an atheist to take objective good and evil seriously." They then flatter their hypothetically religious readers by declaring (p. 33), "It is rarely the case that anyone believes something that's not supported by what he or she takes to be the evidence," and elaborate (p. 35) that, "Someone with very limited access to the available evidence ... might, indeed, arrive at a seriously and obviously mistaken belief, but she would not therefore be stupid or irrational." As a summation of their "reasonable" position, they argue (p. 40) that, "Beliefs are not proper objects of respect (or disrespect). People are."

To demonstrate that theists and nontheists share many of the same values, A and T stress (p. 102) that, "We can all agree that life is valuable, suffering is bad, and people should be allowed to live their lives as they see fit (within certain obvious constraints)." But in response to the Big Lie (p. 90) "that without God, one can no longer believe that morality is a matter of objective rights and wrongs," they argue (p. 49), "We deny that there are acts that are morally wrong because they are instances of sin [a word that means disobeying a metaphysical lawgiver], for we reject sin as a moral category." And they refute the contention that atheists are nothing more than naysayers (p. 49): "Atheists do not simply refuse to accept certain religious claims; atheists present reasons and arguments against them." They back that up by asserting (p. 98) that, "The atheist is advocating a better morality." and defend that assertion by arguing (p. 99) that, "The test for being really good, then, is how one behaves when one knows one could do wrong without being caught." Quite simply, it takes a more moral person to refrain from killing and stealing simply because it would unnecessarily hurt a nonconsenting victim, than to refrain from the same acts out of fear that Big Brother is watching. For (p. 107), "If ... God's say-so really does make murder wrong, then before God prohibited murder, there was no such thing as wrongly killing another person." The logical conclusion is that (p. 110), "If morality depends on God, then all morality is subjective. The lesson is, then, the only way to make morality objective is to make it independent of God's commands."

Like the proponents of unreasonable (?) atheism, A and T make an issue of what is commonly called "the problem of evil." They paraphrase Epicurus (p. 141), "If God exists, and the world contains all the evil that it does, then God is unjust. But because the very notion of God entails that He is the very best, most perfect being, it follows that God cannot exist.... But the argument from evil not only provides a rational argument against the existence of God, it also affords the atheist a level of moral clarity and seriousness that religious believers typically lack."

The belief that their god barbecues its imagined enemies for eternity in the underworld Auschwitz known as hell that is best described as a sadist's wet dream, but is nonetheless a nice guy, continues to be accepted by at least the most morally depraved godworshippers (e.g., Ann Coulter, p. 100). The authors ask (p. 194), "How can belief in eternal torment be reconciled with belief in a just God? That's the problem of hell." They reiterate (p. 198), "How could a just and loving God create hell and send people there for eternity?" Presumably they are hoping their readers will recognize that the only possible answer is, "Because he is a sadistic son of a bitch." And when they declare (p. 197) that, "Those who lash out at people with whom they are disappointed are childish egomaniacs," they are similarly hoping their readers are sufficiently astute to recognize that the most childish egomaniac in all fiction is GOD.

The appendix on religion and morality paraphrases five biblical anecdotes in which the god Yahweh and his followers behave in a manner that any sane reader is bound to recognize as morally depraved, but changes the names to make it seem that the god authorizing such atrocities is the god of visiting extraterrestrials. They ask readers, before turning to the section acknowledging that the aliens are really biblical heroes, how they would evaluate such a god. They then point out (p. 207), "that if you were to take the lessons of the Bible literally, you would not be a moral person."

Aikin and Talisse cannot be faulted for at least testing the hypothesis that believers are more likely to read a book that treats their beliefs, while wrong, as "reasonable." They are not so unrealistic as to imagine that Reasonable Atheism will reach more than a tiny fraction of the number who have read Dawkins, Harris, etc, whose market, whether they realized it or not, was not curable believers but closeted nontheists But even A and T's hope of reaching a significant number of believers strikes me as unrealistically optimistic. Anyone sufficiently pragmatic to read a book espousing an atheistic viewpoint would have been cured of the god delusion already.

If religion is reasonable, then extremist religion must be extremely reasonable. Sam Harris (The End of Faith), rather than fall into the politically correct trap of praising religious moderates, warned that religious moderates' endorsement of extremists' "freedom of religion" was what enabled the extremists to perpetrate their atrocities. I suggest that Aiken and Talisse, by labeling moderate religious believers as merely misinformed rather than perpetuators of a clear and present danger, are contributing to the same effect.

The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God
Carl Sagan
The Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
1594201072 $27.95

Varieties of Scientific Experience is a transcript of lectures Carl Sagan gave in England in 1985. Except for a bare handful of footnotes added to update information not known in 1985, the lectures are unedited from the way they were first delivered. The consequence of the lack of reediting that I found grating was the repeated use of the term "thousand million," a figure Sagan was obliged to use instead of "billion," because the two terms mean the same thing only in America and not in England or much of Europe.

Less grating but still annoying, also a consequence of the book's content dating back to a time when customs now considered antiquated were pro-tem normal, are the repeated capitalization of pronouns and possessive adjectives referring to Christianity's three-headed god; and the dating system, BC, instead of the modern BCE. In drawing attention to these imperfections, I am hoping that foreknowledge of their presence will deter readers from throwing the book down in disgust when they encounter them in their reading.

Less defensible, even in 1985, was Sagan's attributing to species other than Homo sapiens (p. 159), "incest taboos." There is no logical way that natural selection could have made such a taboo a survival factor, and in fact no nonhuman species has ever had such a taboo. Other than that, Sagan's knowledge of sciences outside of his specific expertise is generally more than adequate. And his discussions of illogical religious claims do not trespass into the kind of documentary analyses that have tripped up less cautious authors.

Among the many valid issues Sagan raises that believers tend to ignore in the hope that they will go away are (p. x, written by Ann Druyan), "Why would the God of the Scriptures be far less knowledgeable about nature than are we, newcomers, who have only just begun to study the universe? [Carl] could not bring himself to overlook the Bible's formulation of a flat, six-thousand-year-old earth, and he found especially tragic the notion that we had been created separately from all other living things." And he states (p. 1), "I would say that superstition is marked not by its pretension to a body of knowledge but by its method of seeking truth. And I would like to suggest that superstition is very simple: It is merely belief without evidence." I am not aware of any religionists who have expressed outrage at such an opinion, since doing so would have acknowledged that their particular superstition constituted "belief without proof."

In discussing the argument that everything that happens must be caused, and the ultimate uncaused First Cause must be the three-headed god, Sagan writes (p. 155), "[I]f we say that God made the universe, it is reasonable to then ask, 'And who made God?' But how does saying that God made the universe, and never mind asking where God came from, how is that more satisfying than to say the universe was always there?" He points out that Aristotle's concept of an unmoved prime mover was (p. 64) "several dozen prime movers, and he felt that this was an argument for polytheism, something that is often overlooked today."

Sagan cites a disagreement he had with Arthur C. Clarke (p. 123): "He said that the doctrine of man made in the image of god is ticking like a time bomb at Christianity's base, set to explode if other intelligent creatures are discovered.... I think the only sense that can be put on the phrase 'made in God's image' is that there is a sense of intellectual affinity between us and higher organisms, if such there be." That rationalization, that biblical authors did not intend "made in God's image" to mean exactly what it says, would be understandable from an apologist. From Sagan, it carries leaning over backward to be politically correct to an absurd limit.

In assessing the quantity and quality of evidence necessary to deduce the presence of extraterrestrial intelligence (p. 108), Sagan makes the analogy of "what would be convincing evidence of an angel or a demigod or a god?" Why should there be two different standards of evidence for two equally improbable conclusions? And on the claims of UFO cultists that extraterrestrials with no DNA in common with any lifeform on earth have mated with human women and produced human offspring, he points out (p. 150) that such a feat is "somewhat less likely, if we bear in mind the clear evidence of Darwinian evolution, than the successful mating between a man and a petunia."

In discussing bizarre beliefs of certain religious sects, Sagan annihilates (p. 143) the beliefs without identifying the believers by name as Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Scientists, Mormons, and Maharishi freaks. He is less circumspect in identifying (p. ?) as "borderline religions or pseudoscientific groups, including UFO clubs, spiritualists, Dianetics, which has since transmogrified into something called Scientology, and so on." Nonetheless, it may be no coincidence that the index makes no mention of Dianetics, Scientology, pseudoscience, or alternative medicine. If the most litigious pretend-religion on earth wanted to launch a SLAPP suit, Druyan was not going to make it easier for them by telling them which pages to search - and neither am I.

Sagan weighs in on the reason a designation that means "someone who is not godphuqt" is widely used as if it were a dirty word (p. 148): "The Romans called the Christians atheists.... And that general sense that an atheist is anybody who doesn't believe exactly as I do prevails in our own time."

On the issue of why, when someone has a religious hallucination (p. 132), "it is almost always to one of the religions that are mainly believed in his or her community. For example, it's very rare in the West that someone has a religious-conversion experience in which the principal deity has the head of an elephant and is painted blue.... But in India there is a blue, elephant-headed god.... And seeing depictions of this god is not so rare.... How is it that visions of [the Christian goddess] the Virgin Mary are common in the West but rarely occur in the places in the East where there isn't a strong Christian tradition?"

In rebutting the desperate apologists who argue that the Second Law of Thermodynamics implies the reality of God, Sagan counters (p. 158) that, "if God were subject to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, then God could only have a finite lifetime. And again, there is an asymmetric use of the principles of physics when theology confronts thermodynamics." On the issue of why God has only revealed his existence to the authors of a book that endorses a flat earth, and the rationalization that God was talking to his 'prophets' in metaphors they were able to grasp, Sagan points out (p. 167) that God could have engraved his Commandments on the moon, with each Commandment ten kilometers across, so that when technology reached a sufficient level they would be discovered. In fact no alleged revelation has contained scientific information not known at the time of writing. Is God really inept? Or is the Occam's razor explanation simply that he/she/it does not exist?

Not being an anthropologist, Sagan limits his observations in that field to the findings of experts. One discovery he considered worth reporting is (p. 173), "all cultures in which the children are not permitted to be hugged because of some social ban and a premarital adolescent sex taboo is strictly enforced wind up killing, hating, and having powerful dominance hierarchies."

Instead of a final chapter summarizing the book's content, Sagan ends with a selection of the questions he was asked at the end of each lecture, and the answers he gave. Having seen him speak (London, 1977), I consider it not improbable that his politeness rubbed off on his audience, and that he was not confronted by arrogant, loudmouthed abusers. But if he was, their challenges are not reported here. The Q. and A. is an interesting addition, but tends to be somewhat trivial. The lectures were presumably aimed at university-level listeners, and as such were designed for the comprehension level of first-year undergraduates. The end result is a book best described as a primer on the issues of reality and its deniers, so soft-pedaled that even a creationist is unlikely to be seriously offended. Personally, if my writings did not offend nonsense-addicts, I would consider myself a failure. Sagan's attitude has always been, if not accommodating, at least non-confrontational. And so it is here.

What's So Great About Christianity?
Dinesh D'Souza
Regnery Publishing Inc
One Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington DC 20001
9781596985179 $27.95

The only way anybody over the age of ten can believe that the fairy tales of the Christian bible belong in the real world, rather than in the same fantasy world as Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz, is if he is sufficiently rationally challenged to delude himself that biblical authors wrote in metaphors that they did not intend to be taken literally. Every competent biblical scholar who has studied the documents has concluded that, when bible authors depicted a six-thousand-year-old flat earth inhabited by separately-created species, they believed they were writing literal truth.

Dinesh D'Souza reveals his intellectual bankruptcy and scholastic ineptitude right at the beginning of his book, by confessing (pp. xi-xii) that it is going to be based on the assumption that the biblical authors did not intend their fairy tales to be taken literally. In trying to prove that biblical religion is true by starting from the assumption that observably false statements did not mean what anyone with a functioning human brain can see that they meant, he puts himself in the same category of mental masturbators as Robert Turkel, C. S. Lewis, and Alister McGrath, authors of books every bit as infantile and irrational as What's So Great About Christianity?

D'Souza's belief that he can prove the existence of Mother Goose (or is it God? I'm always confusing those two), becomes more comprehensible when one learns that, as an adviser to the least intelligent president in American history (until Bush Junior took the title from him in a canter), he wrote a hagiography of Reagan that described him as "an extraordinary leader." From a belief that Reagan was not subhuman stupid to a belief that the character mistranslated as God in English bibles is not the most sadistic, evil, mass-murdering psychopath in all fiction is not a big step.

D'Souza begins his attempt to prove that black is white with seven numbered Big Lies (pp. xvi-xvii), lies that the ignoranti at whom his arguments are aimed will blissfully swallow, but anyone whose education exceeds that of Koko the gorilla will recognize as inaccuracies. The first five illustrate the adage, "When you have no defence, attack." Does he seriously believe that the fact of evolution supports the creator hypothesis? He backs up number 6, "Atheism, not religion, is responsible for the mass murders of history," by parroting the Big Lie that Nazism was a form of atheism. Nazism was an extreme version of Catholicism. Number 7, "Atheism is motivated not by reason but by the kind of cowardly moral escapism," like the allegations McGrath leveled against Richard Dawkins, represents a projection onto his opponents of what the author sees in the mirror. That D'Souza is a moral coward who needs the mind-deadening opiate of an afterlife belief to overcome his terror of death and get him through the day without having to be institutionalized and diapered, can be inferred from his attempt to terrorize nontheists by telling them, "I hope you will read it as if your life depended on it, because, in a way, it might." That is essentially Pascal's wager, but with the additional threat that, "You must choose God or reject Him (sic), because when you die all abstentions are counted as 'no' votes." I get the impression that D'Souza believes in a god that sentences its imagined enemies to be barbecued with flamethrowers in an underworld Auschwitz that is a sadist's dream for all eternity, but is nonetheless a nice guy. In fact such a god would make Hitler look like a nice guy.

"God has come back to life.... The ranks of the unbelievers are shrinking as a proportion of the world's population" (p. 2). Is that disinformation best interpreted as evidence of criminal ignorance; an observation by "those who will not see"; or a conscious, intentional lie? Certainly it is indefensibly false. Newsflash: Belief in religion has shrunk to 64 percent even in America (see Living Without God, by Ronald Aronson), and below 50 percent in almost all of Europe. Since nonbelievers in Moslem-dominated countries dare not stand up and be counted, propagandists like D'Souza count the whole population as believers, since that is what is necessary in order to peddle his pretence that religion is not dying as an inevitable consequence of an increase in education.

Unlike such inflexible abusers of the educated as Ann Coulter and Bush Senior and Junior, D'Souza demonstrates that he has actually read Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Victor Stenger, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett. Since he is still a godworshipper, he clearly has not grasped the points they made. He proves it by resorting to the standard practice of defenders of all disproven belief systems, particularly but not only the metaphysical: He quotes his opponents' words, and then proceeds on the assumption that quoting constitutes rebutting.

For example, he cites the statistics that 60 percent of American scientists and 93 percent of members of the National Academy of Sciences are nontheists. But he offers no theistic explanation for the measured reality that education in science correlates inversely with religious beliefs. He similarly quotes (p. 28) Carl Sagan's recognition that it is, "Better by far to embrace the hard truth than a reassuring fable," then detours onto other issues as if he has proven Sagan wrong just by quoting him. D'Souza is neither as illiterate as Turkel, aka J. P. Holding, nor a self-made Manchurian Candidate like McGrath. But he is as adept at shutting out reality as either.

D'Souza nowhere makes a single point worthy of serous consideration. He disagrees with those findings of scientific research that falsify religion, while agreeing with others that he can pretend support the god hypothesis even though they clearly refute it. Thus he supports evolutionary theory by ignoring the reality that it diametrically opposes the biblical fairy tale of creation. And to give himself someone he can legitimately dispute, he sets up straw men with such non-sequitur arguments as (p. 32), "Why isn't the ACLU filing lawsuits on behalf of Boyle's Law?" The instant a religion demands that an anti-scientific religious alternative to Boyle's Law be taught in school science classes, the ACLU will undoubtedly do just that, just as it will file a lawsuit against any school district that attempts to mandate the teaching of Scientology's alien body-snatchers as an alternative to paleoanthropology.

D'Souza has clearly learned nothing from his reading of the evidence falsifying the god delusion, and seems determined to prove that he is unteachable. Chapter two is subtitled, "Why Religion is Winning." Religion is NOT winning. Chapter three begins with the assertion (p. 41) that, "Western civilization was built by Christianity." Correction: Western civilization survived despite Christianity. If Christianity had retained the political power that gave the world the Inquisition, we would either still be living in the Dark Ages or already extinct. He asserts (p. 65) that, "Christianity has also produced many great figures, from Vincent de Paul to Mother Teresa." I could have gone along with his naming William Wilberforce - but Mother Teresa? Either he has not read the definitive exposures of that lying, swindling, self-aggrandizing humbug by Christopher Hitchens and Aroup Chatterjee, or he is following Joseph Goebbels' advice to keep repeating the same Big Lie until the masses believe it.

No longer having the power of physical terrorism that rugbutters still possess, D'Souza has to limit his threats to lying about the consequences of outgrowing medieval superstition. He assert (p. 78) that, "the death of Christianity must also mean the gradual extinction of values such as human rights, the right against torture, and the rights and equal treatment asserted by women, minorities and the poor." Is he truly unaware that the recovery of such rights is a consequence of overcoming Christianity's pernicious influence? Either he is a blatant, unmitigated (expletive deleted), or he has been living on another planet.

D'Souza devotes whole chapters to Pascal's wager and "the exaggerated crimes of religion." His theological doubletalk reads like the drivel that caused H. L. Mencken to describe a theologian as a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cast that is not there - and finding it. And after downplaying the role of religion as a cause of unparalleled mass murders, he tries to blame atheism for the crimes of Joseph Stalin. Newsflash: Stalin's sole motivation was lust for power. That he was a Russian had nothing to do with it, and that he was a nontheist had nothing to do with it. D'Souza knows that, but he recognizes that he is writing for unlearned addicts who hang on his every effort to save their crumbling delusion, and follows the advice of Paul of Tarsus to lie in order to spread what he perceives as a higher truth.

After quoting Richard Dawkins' totally accurate description of the "Old Testament" god as "the most unpleasant character in all fiction," D'Souza (p. 226) asserts that Dawkins "doesn't just disbelieve in the Christian God, (sic) he detests Him (sic)." What would D'Souza say of someone who read Mein Kampf and did not end up "detesting" Hitler? Is he truly unable to see the two situations as identical? And in chapter twenty-three when he writes about "the opiate of the morally corrupt," D'Souza pretends that the opiate is "unbelief" even though he has sufficient familiarity with the evidence to know that it is really religion. And chapter twenty-four tries to preempt the question, "Where is God when bad things happen?" by asking, "Where is atheism when bad things happen?" Does he really think the marks to whom he is peddling his propaganda are so stupid that they can be manipulated into blaming nontheists for natural disasters that kill thousands? This is a further expansion of the principle, "When you have no defence, attack."

D'Souza concludes his book by inverting a self-evident truth into (p. 304),"for bad people to do good things - that takes religion." Is there a single human being on this planet dumb enough to think that such a contention, that is in fact true perhaps five percent of the time (his Catholic faith did not make Hitler do good things), in any way invalidates Stephen Weinberg's observation that, "for good people to do bad things - that takes religion"?

One cannot help but notice the similarity of religious proselytizers, in effect missionaries even if they do not knock on doors, and vampires. Once a vampire achieves undead status, it feels a compulsion to bite the uninfected on the neck in order to turn them into what it is. Missionaries, as blissfully addicted to religion as their opiate of choice as any alcoholic, similarly try to infect anyone who has remained free of the god virus. The only real difference between missionaries and vampires is that, while the Sky Fuhrer the missionaries preach is as nonexistent as any vampire, the missionaries unfortunately do exist.

I concede that much, perhaps most of D'Souza's circular reasoning and desperate doublethink should be attributed to a sincere belief in the antihuman superstition he defends. But it is glaringly obvious that his most indefensible lies are just that - conscious, intentional lies. What's So Great About Christianity? does serve one useful purpose. If anyone wants to write a book proving that Toad of Toad Hall is a real person, or that L. Ron Hubbard's Thetans from the planet Arslycus really exist, this is the perfect blueprint from which such a book could be adapted. What is impossible to comprehend is how anyone whose I.Q. exceeds room temperature (Fahrenheit) can mistake it for a reasoned, cogent rebuttal of the evidence that black is not white. Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris gave the world solid evidence that incurable godworship is a form of brain-death. Dinesh D'Souza proves it in spades. I would recommend that he take a course in Logic 101. But he knows that, if he did that, the Republican theofascists (tautology?) who provide his bread and butter would classify him as unemployable.

Why I Am Not a Christian: Four Conclusive Reasons to Reject the Faith
Richard Carrier
7790B Investment Drive, Charleston SC 29418
9781456588854 $10.95

Why I am Not a Christian is best described as an intellectual exercise designed to supply a retroactive justification for Richard Carrier's status as a nontheist. I doubt that he intended anyone to believe that he was spelling out the reasoning behind his decision to reject the god delusion. Certainly I do not believe it. He acknowledges that he was encouraged to write the book by persons who hoped that he could offer reasons for his position that they could then cite as, "Yes, that was my reason, too." What he came up with is indeed a logical set of arguments why Christianity is incompatible with logic, incompatible with observable reality, and incompatible with anything anyone with a functioning human brain could continue to believe after examining the evidence. The downside is that Carrier is no Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Victor Stenger, or Christopher Hitchens. His book amounts to a long undergraduate essay that will not find its way into scholarly bibliographies that include the aforementioned Big Four.

Carrier's book contains no factual errors, for the logical reason that, other than big-picture observations about the existing universe, he makes no factual statements. His arguments are purely hypothetical, and as such cannot be inaccurate. That does not however mean that they are not completely valid. If believers were amenable to logic, this book would devastate them. But with rare exceptions, they are not.

Carrier makes four basic arguments, listed as: God is Silent; God is Inert; Wrong Evidence; and Wrong Universe.

God is Silent begins (p. 7), "If God wants something from me, he would tell me. He wouldn't leave someone else to do this.... God would deliver the message himself, directly.... in exactly those terms we each would understand. And we would all agree on what that message was."

The God is Inert section states (p. 18), "It's a simple fact of direct observation that if I had the means and the power, and could not be harmed for my efforts, I would immediately alleviate all needless suffering in the universe.... That's what any loving person would do. Yet I cannot be more loving, more benevolent than the Christian God. Therefore the fact that the Christian God does none of these things - in fact, nothing of any sort whatsoever - is proof positive that there is no Christian God."

The summation of Wrong Evidence reads (p. 40), "The only evidence ever offered for the 'existence' of God essentially boils down to two things: 'The universe exists, therefore God exists' and 'I feel God exists, therefore he does.' ... Even if we could prove a single genuine miracle had ever really happened, we still would not have evidence that God caused that miracle.... To confirm God as the cause would require yet more evidence, of which (again) we have none. As for those who claim to have 'seen' or 'spoken' to God, it turns out on close examination... that they are lying, insane, or only imagining what they saw or heard."

Under Wrong Universe, he spells out (p. 67) the hypothesis of physicist Lee Smolin that, "from the available scientific facts ... our universe is probably the most perfect universe that could ever be arranged for producing black holes." The point is that, while a universe created by an omnipotent god whose primary concern was generating black holes would be identical with what we see, and a universe generated by abstract forces and particles and lacking a god would be exactly what we see, a universe created by an omnipotent god whose purpose was to produce a Goldilocks environment for humans, would have no resemblance to the universe that actually exists.

Carrier is not naive. He is aware that god addicts cannot be cured by logic, since they are motivated by emotion, not reason. All he could hope to achieve with this book is to encourage more nontheists to come out of the closet - and the Big Four have set that ball rolling already. But just as humankind is becoming progressively more moral, so is it becoming progressively more rational. So for Carrier to have chosen not to write this book, in recognition that he will not live to see any measurable positive effect from doing so, would have been indefensible. It is, if only a small one, nonetheless one more nail in the god delusion's coffin, and as such a service to humanity.

Forged: Writing in the Name of God - Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are
Bart D. Ehrman
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780062012616 $26.99

Not until page 50 did I find anything in Forged: Writing in the Name of God, worth highlighting in case I wished to refer to it in my review. That is not to say that pages I did not highlight are insignificant. Rather, they tend to be about non-canonical books that Ehrman had not treated at any length in his previous books, and as such are not useful to persons concerned only with the question of forgery in the finished Christian Testament.

There is no bibliography. I suggest that there is a reason for that. As competent in Christian Testament analysis as Ehrman unquestionably is, he appears to have a fatuous contempt for the arguments of any scholar other than himself. His failure to consider conclusions reached by Robert Price or Martin Larson, to cite just two examples, raises the suspicion that he has not bothered to read them. And he has apparently never encountered the hypothesis that the Beloved Disciple of the fourth gospel was Nathanael, a conclusion I reached even before recognizing that Frank Yerby was not being capricious in identifying Nathanael as the BD in his novel, Judas My Brother.(1)

Ehrman repeats some of the points he made in his previous books. For example (p. 106), "Paul expects to be one of the ones who will still be alive when [Jesus' second coming] happens." Since my memory is less than perfect, I cannot cite other specific repetitions; but undoubtedly they are there.

Whether Ehrman's references to the scholars of the Jesus Seminar (p. 246) were intended to be denigrating calls for an eye-of-the-beholder judgment. He does write that, "In my opinion, the members of the Jesus Seminar typically got precisely wrong what Jesus actually said." Obviously I cannot dispute that he has a right to his opinion.

He describes the Jesus Seminar's statement (p. 246) that, "The concept of plagiarism was unknown in the ancient world," as "a "howler." Perhaps. But it is no more of a howler than Ehrman's own statement (p. 77) that 1 Peter "alludes to Rome's destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70." It does not, at least not in any translation I have ever seen, including my own.(2) And while he describes the noncanonical Epistle of Peter's description of Peter's unnamed enemy (p. 190) as, "a thinly veiled attack on Paul," he shows no awareness that the character named "Simon, a magician," in Acts of Peter (p. 50) was likewise a thinly veiled attack on Paul.

He writes (p. 68) that, "Tradition ... indicates that Peter was martyred in Rome under Nero in 64 CE." The only basis for believing that Peter ever visited Rome in his life was Acts of Peter, which was excluded from the Christian canon as the forgery Ehrman recognizes it to be. In fact there is no reason to doubt that, when Peter wrote that, "the also-chosen in Babylon greet you," he was not, as Ehrman alleged, "claiming to be writing from the city of Rome," but was indeed writing from Babylon, which still stood, where he may conceivably have been the Nazirite commune's supervisor.

Ehrman's whole interpretation of 1 Peter strikes me as blinkered, finding arguments to support his position that are simply not there. He acknowledges that Rome had not acquired the pseudonym "Babylon" until after Peter's death. But instead of seeing that as evidence that Peter was really writing from Babylon, he jumps to the alternative hypothesis that it proves the letter to be pseudepigraphical. Pardon me if I disagree. He does get right (p. 75) that, "It is highly probable that [Peter] in fact could not write at all." But his claim that a letter, "written by a highly literate, highly educated, Greek-speaking Christian" could not have been a secretary's (Silvanus) translation of Peter's Aramaic dictation is really stretching, despite the arguments he offers that secretaries never did that.

Ehrman cites (p. 55) the story in Matthew of Pilate washing his hands and claiming himself "innocent of this man's blood," and makes the valid point that such fantasies, invented for the purpose of sucking up to the emperor by acquitting the Romans of responsibility for Jesus' execution, led to centuries of Christian anti-Semitism. But he makes no mention of where the gospel author got such an anecdote. Is he unaware that it was copied from the scene in Daniel 13:46 in Catholic bibles, in which the boy Daniel used the same words in connection with a condemned woman named Suzanna?

Ehrman's asserts (p. 196) that, "the book of James may seem to be contradicting Paul, but it is not really contradicting him." The doubletalk with which he backs up that denial of reality reads like something written by a theologian. And he rejects James' authorship (p. 198) on the ground that James was "an Aramaic-speaking peasant from Galilee who almost certainly never learned to read." That is the same argument he uses as part of his reason for rejecting Peter's authorship of 1 Peter, and it is no more convincing here.

"Whoever wrote 1 Timothy knew full well that he wasn't really the apostle Paul. He made that part up." No disagreement there. And Ehrman is almost right when he says (p. 146) that "messiah" comes from a Hebrew word meaning "anointed one." Actually Mashyah means "anointed by Yahweh." And he is presumably trying to be politically correct when he refers to Jesus the Nazirite as "Jesus of Nazareth," a term invented by translators to further the pretence that Jesus' sectarian title referred to a nonexistent geographic location. His capitalization of Holy Family (p. 216) is less defensible.

Ehrman's contention, that the tale of Jesus refusing to condemn a woman caught in adultery was not originally a part of the fourth gospel, is disputed only by biblical literalists. As he points out, the narrative of John is smoothly continuous only if the tale is omitted. But he does not mention that it may have once been part of Luke, where it appears in some early mss between chapters 21 and 22. He does mention the theory that, since it showed Jesus writing in the dust, it was composed for the specific purpose of denying the reality that Jesus was illiterate.

He offers reasons for believing that, while the three "John" letters were not written by either the author of the John gospel or the author of Revelation, they were all written by a single individual. I find Robert Price's argument for the opposite conclusion more convincing.

In describing the pre-interpolated ending of the gospel called Mark, Ehrman declares (p. 243), "This ending is brilliant. It brings readers up short and makes them say, 'What??? ... That's it? That's the end? How could it be the end?'" As far as I am aware, he is the first person to suggest that there was no original ending of Mark that is now lost. I thought scholars were unanimous that, being the oldest gospel, Mark's concluding verses on the outside of the scroll had been destroyed by wear and tear to which later scrolls were not subjected. Again, he is entitled to his opinion.

Forged is useful to scholars, since it discusses issues on which Ehrman had not previously written in any detail. But it is his most trivial book, adding little to what he had previously written about the content of the Christian canon. If he had not already established a reputation as a leading scholar in his field, he might have had difficulty finding a publisher.

(1) see chapter 20, "Was Nathanael the Beloved Disciple?" in For This We Thank Our Fuhrer." The theory is also mentioned in God, Jesus and the Bible: The Origin and Evolution of Religion, p. 352-355, which Ehrman has no excuse for not reading. I also make Nathanael the BD in my novels, Uncle Yeshu, Messiah, and Project Multiscam.

(2) The Protestant Bible Correctly Translated.

William Harwood

Henry's Bookshelf

Alberto Giacometti - the Origin of Space
edited by Markus Bruderlin and Toni Stooss
with contributions by Gottfried Boehm et al.
Hatje Cantz
Ostfildern, Germany
9783775727150 $60.00

Interrelated essays aim to work out at least the preliminaries of a reconceptualization of the groundbreaking sculptor Giacometti (1901-66). He continues to be a major figure in modernist art for his striking originality. This book however does not take up his revolutionary changes, his techniques, or their aesthetic effects as do the many other books on this artist of perennial interest. Instead, this book of Giacometti goes into the relationship between his sculptors and ideas about space; which ideas have become much more refined with progress in physics and technology and also with the semiotics and popular arts (e. g., film, fashion) of postmodernism.

The text takes off on Giacometti's remark made about 1949 that "space does not exist, you have to invent it" by applying twentieth-century physics' conceptualizations of space as "multiform typology" and the philosophical field of phenomenology to realize what he was getting at with this remark. With respect to space, "multiform typology" involves seeing space not as a continuous medium, but as composed of "different places or localities" which can be "inhabited" by different structures or modes, among these the energetic or moving, the static, and the dream. One sees how this view of space as granular-like applies to Giacometti's sculptures having rough surfaces and unnatural shapes.

The visual component of the book goes with the intellectually engaging and illuminating texts ideally. Display and photography of Giacometti's works is especially important to bring in his artistic idea about inventing space. There's a section of photographs of "installation views" of sculptures from an exhibition (ended March 2011) at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg in Germany. (The exhibition is at the Museum der Moderne Monchsberg, Salzburg thru July 2011.) The large part of the visual matter is works from the exhibition plus others photographed individually. Shown mostly one per page in the middle of the oversize pages with wide margins around the respective photograph, this recreates as much as possible the unique museum exhibition meant to bring out Giacometti's ideas about his sculptures and ideas of space.

Other visual matter includes color photos of Giacometti in his studio, scenes from his studio, photos from his life, and mixed with the photos of sculptures, photos of preliminary drawings. In the essays, one encounters pertinent ideas by Walter Benjamin, Martin Heidegger, and other artists such as Rodin and Barnett Newman; and two essays by Sartre follow the regular content. Giacometti is both put within the context of the aesthetic and philosophical ideas and bearings of his time and also distinguished for the ways he accomplished his artistic inspiration and aim of inventing space.

Considering the many art books on this sculptor of perennial interest, it's hard for any new book to stand out--but this one does stand out for the new dimensions it opens on Giacometti's work and also for its outstanding presentation of many of his sculptures.

Rene Girard, translated by Matthew Pattillo and David Dawson
Michigan State U. Press
East Lansing, MI
9780870139925 $14.95

In this diminutive-sized monograph in the publisher's series Breakthroughs in Mimetic Theory, Girard casts Vedic (Asian Indian) sacrifice into the perspective by which sacrifice in Western religion as recounted in the Bible has come to be understood. The religious grounds for such sacrifice in the Vedic religion are found mainly in the "Brahmanas," a "selective anthology" of Vedic writings ignored or scorned by most leading scholars of Indian religion when this became a subject of interest in the late nineteenth century. Because of this marginalization of writings dealing with Vedic sacrifice, the place of sacrifice in Indian religious practices and Indian society was not generally known by Westerners.

Vedic sacrifice, most importantly human but animal too, served the same purpose in Indian society as in Western society. Mainly, a scapegoat was sought for sacrifice to keep social cohesion and confirm community conventions and mores. In the Western tradition, as recorded in the Bible, Jesus was the ultimate sacrificial victim. His sacrifice however, as ultimately with Vedic sacrifice, meant to strengthen social cohesion resulted eventually in breaking up such cohesion and serving as a passage to a successive social form. Girard's focus is this ambivalence--or what he in places calls the "enigma"--of sacrifice by which it is at its deepest level an agency for social transformation.

Sacrifice is ambivalent because the sacrificer such as the Brahmins in early Indian religion know that sacrifice is murder. Thus elaborate ceremonies often involving drugs--the hallucinogenic "soma" for the Brahmins--and rationalizations such as the victim as the "other" or the "outsider" surround sacrifice. Some ceremonies call for apologizing to the victim before the sacrifice. Others gloss over the violence done to a human victim or try to disguise it; while with plant sacrifices, for instance, exaggerated powers are attributed to the "victim" so the purpose of sacrifice in confirming social cohesion against "threats" is fulfilled. Because of the ambivalences of sacrifice exposed by such anomalies, sacrifice is analyzed as a type of mimesis, or imaginative acting out.

After introducing Vedic sacrificial practices, Girard then integrates these into the larger topic of sacrifice by comparison with sacrificial acts found in the Bible and general understandings of sacrifice of scapegoats developed by scholars over the 20th century. In giving attention to the overlooked subject of Vedic sacrifice in Indian religious tradition, this Stanford Emeritus Professor and member of the French Academy deepens understanding of the universal practice of sacrifice.

Ming Erotic Novellas - Genre, Consumption, and Religiosity in Cultural Practice
Richard C. Wang
Chinese University Press
Hong Kong
9789629964580 $52.00

This "highly interdisciplinary" literary criticism and cultural study made possible by the rediscovery of Ming novellas involves "linguistic, historical, literary, and religious perspectives." The Chinese Ming period went from 1368 to 1644. The Ming novellas were more complex than earlier Chinese literature. Whereas earlier literature could be called "elegant" for its brevity with resemblances to poetry, the Ming novellas were "denotative-exhaustive." In content and tone, the novellas were realistic with depth of character, settings, and sections going beyond the relationship of the central characters. Where the Ming novellas were elegant, this was usually in parody of the earlier more formal, compressed style.

More complex, the Ming novellas necessarily had more Chinese characters. Wang reports that compared with some 350 to 3500 characters in an earlier Tang classical tale, a Ming novella typically had an average of almost 6,000, with one having 15,000 characters. As with the English novel in the 17th and 18th centuries, the Ming novella reflected social changes. Such changes were reflected not only in literary tastes for the Ming novel, but in its content; which content could entail literally or by implication new thinking on cosmology and religion, medical ideas about sexuality, and greater openness about pleasure, sensibility, and eroticism. During this period in Chinese society, religious ideas of transcendence, immortality, and heightened spirituality were brought together more closely with sex and sexuality; so that eroticism was not only a metaphor for religious feelings and experiences, but religious feelings and experiences were an extension of eroticism.

The publication of Ming novellas and their readership are other matters Wang brings in in this multifaceted study holding interest beyond a limited academic circle. Modern-day readers would be interested, for instance, in how the Ming novella subtly subverted the imperial rule and social structure of China. Such novellas treatment of the interests in sex and sexuality in Ming China which runs throughout Wang's study is of interest to modern-day readers too. Wang is a professor at the U. of Florida who applies contemporary Western academic sensibilities, interests, and techniques to the Ming novellas.

In the Mood for Munsingwear - Minnesota's Claim to Underwear Fame
Susan Marks
Minnesota Historical Society Press
St. Paul, MN
9780873518222 $27.95

Munsingwear got its beginnings when George Munsing moved to Minnesota from New York in 1886 to make "itchless underwear" to sell in the region where winter was usually the coldest in the United States. As a superintendent at a New York knitting wear company, he had invented a process to "plate silk on wool" to make a fabric that would be as warm as woolen underwear yet not irritate the skin. Munsing's business was a success right from its start. And it continued to be successful with its innovations in undergarments and by staying in touch with the consumer market.

The author Marks uses her talents as an author of popular nonfiction and a film director for a writing style dealing lightly yet informatively with such products requiring cagey advertising in a time when they were truly unmentionables and also a bright visual style highlighting not only the changing line of practical and attractive garments, but also the ads featuring them.

Marks also writes about company operations, production equipment, and the employees, including the progressive relationship between them and management where by the 1920s, Munsingwear offered free medical care, a library, and other benefits.

In the 1960s and '70s, Munsingwear had strong sales with sportswear, especially its Grand Slam golf shirt with a penguin logo worn by Bob Hope, Dean Martin, and other celebrities. Toward the end of the 1970s however, Munsingwear sales began to slump from what some analysts described as "revolving door management," but also from competition from designer and boutique brands and changing women's fashions influenced by feminism. Although the company had to move from its office and manufacturing buildings to new locations and lay off hundreds of employees, it nonetheless stayed in business; and in the past decade, with the interest in vintage fashions, it enjoyed a resurgence. The company capitalized on this in 2003 by introducing a new line of vintage-inspired sportswear named Original Penguin by Munsingwear.

Henry Berry

Joanne's Bookshelf

Moore, Wes.
The Other Wes Moore.
Spiegel & Grau (Random House trademark).
9781588369697 $25.00

Two Wes Moores, one a Rhodes Scholar and the other a felon. The lives of two young boys with the same name, similar backgrounds, families, schools, from Baltimore and the Bronx are chronicled by Wes Moore, a veteran and a NYC bank financier, in his book The Other Wes Moore. The other Wes Moore became imprisoned for life for murder. 'Two roads diverged...,' and the author's psyche compelled him to find out what led them on such opposite roads.

When newspapers were reporting his Rhodes scholarship, they were also reporting the other Wes Moore's involvement in a jewelry heist and a policeman's death. The divergence so obsessed Wes that he wrote to the prisoner. The reply arrived about a month later that he could visit Jessup Correctional and talk with the other Wes.

Poor neighborhoods where these two African-American boys lived don't speak well of America's war on poverty. Drugs, murders, and all kinds of inequities generate despair in the "projects." Both boys grew up without fathers; the author's died of a rare virus, and the other Wes's father was just absent, drowning his despair in liquor. The author's mother completed college, but the other Wes's mother, accepted by Johns Hopkins University, was denied college aid, despite her Associate Degree from Community College of Baltimore. It's difficult to determine why their two roads led to different outcomes, but poverty surely influenced the other Wes's early decision to become a lookout for drug dealers that earned him good money. His first high from using was exhilarating and made "him forget everything else." [62]

The Valley Forge Military Academy in Wayne, PA, became a turning point for the author, where his mother enrolled him because of bad grades and skipping classes. . He tried to escape, but got lost and returned chagrined. His Sergeant Austin and Cadet Captain Ty Hill taught him that people really cared about him . [115]

It cannot be said the other Wes didn't try; he returned to high school after a juvenile detention, was reading at a college sophomore level, later tried Job Corps, and became a carpenter, but he couldn't earn enough to support his families. The author says, "The chilling truth is that...(the other Wes's) story could have been mine. The tragedy is that my story could have been his." [xi and 179]

A "Call to Action" by Tavis Smiley and a forty-six page "Readers Guide" of nonprofits helping youngsters overcome adversity are included. Although moving from one Wes to the other is sometimes difficult to follow, it is a book that is difficult to put down.

Outrageous Fortunes: The Twelve Surprising Trends that will Reshape the Global Economy
Altman, Daniel
Henry Holt / Times Books
9780805091021 $25.00

These intriguing predictions could have significant consequences for our world: China will become poorer? [12] The European Union will disintegrate? [ 29] Americans will be the world's new sales force? [128]

Daniel Altman, who has written 3 other books and teaches at NYU's Stern School of Business, groups these and 9 other predictions into 4 categories: Limits, Obstacles, Opportunities, and Risks in his new book Outrageous Fortunes: The Twelve Surprising Trends that will Reshape the Global Economy. These categories are somewhat problematic as some of his predictions overlap categories. He concludes, "Reconsidering how the global economy will develop in coming decades will help us perceive new opportunities and emerging risks." [222]

For Americans, being insular won't cut it anymore; the world is too integrated and interrelated. The U. S. Federal Reserve has made loans to banks all over the world. Multinational companies and worldwide sovereign wealth funds (state-owned investment funds) are involved in numerous countries and making monumental investments. Numerous writers, including Mark Steyn in America Alone and Fareed Zakaria in The Post-American World, along with many others, have described some of these issues as well as how the demographics in America and other countries have worldwide effects. Even economists Reinhart and Rogoff in This Time is Different have pondered the complications of a global financial economy and the complexity of financial data.

Altman's first "Limit" predicts China will have enormous growth for a couple decades only to be followed by debilitating consequences because of their Confucianism, lack of legal and property rights, government corruption, inefficient corporate and managerial structures, and an aging and unproductive population, the latter which will exceed other countries'. Without enough people working, there aren't enough to sustain the elderly. Nevertheless, before China's decline, Altman joins others in saying China may replace the U.S. as a superpower, with Shanghai becoming the world's financial sector and the yuan or renminbi overtaking the dollar in world markets. [12] Then the China flame-out.

Secondly, the European Union, a 27-country bloc with a half billion people and about 1/3 of the world's gross domestic product will suffer losses of trade and economic growth that will unleash destabilizing forces and leave the world poorer. [29-30] Conditions of EU membership are reducing corruption and budget deficits 3% or lower, but they aren't enforced. Some will survive their aging populations, costly pensions and benefits, tax increases, debt and borrowing, but some may default. [37-38] This sounds familiar, judging by news media reports.

Altman believes an "Obstacle" will be a backlash against capitalism, that the battle between capitalism and communism (the Cold War) has consumed more hours, resources and human lives than ever before and that the clash of economic ideologies continues. [90-91] The financial crisis shook faith in capitalism, amplifying grievances with the IMF, WTO, banking, and multinational corporations. [93] Various countries swing from left to right and back again, depending upon living conditions. "Capitalism is most sustainable...when there is equality of opportunity....Socialism stalls when government controls the economy too closely." [108] Sound familiar?

He says a sixth trend, or "Opportunity," is that Americans will become the world's sales force as our hucksterism is unmatched. He believes American commercial culture will spread because it reflects the American dream. [121] Although education, health care, and service sector jobs will grow, more will be needed for office support workers, sales, marketing research analysts, and public relations. [116] He warns, however, that the American ideal must be preserved or people will not covet the American lifestyle or their products.

His other Obstacles and Risks include a new colonialism developing, immigration issues, a developing financial black market, global environmental issues, and ineffective political institutions.

And his other Opportunities include a rising number of worldwide middlemen, the collapse of the World Trade Organization, and new financial hubs replacing NYC and London.

Eighteen pages of end notes and website references provide background and useful statistics for readers who should, at the very least, be cognizant of these world-changing and very plausible trends.

Joanne B. Conrad, Reviewer

Karlene's Bookshelf

Katie MacAlister
Signet Publishing
0451229312, $7.99

I've never been disappointed in the humor that runs through Katie's books. From dragons to pirates, she tackles romance in a way that is apart from the traditional. She does it again in taking us from the modern world of technology and electronics through a freak accident that lands our hero in an alternate timeline. However, the execution of this volume fell a little flat. I liked the concept behind Jack and Octavia, but it didn't seem either was fully developed.

Steampunk was obvious in the set up and description, and it was cute on occasion for Octavia to remind him it was "NOT" steampunk, but it did seem overall to beat us over the head that this was the world we were in by the two always mentioning it.

The secondary characters were very one dimensional and unsurprising, although they did have their moments of humor as well. There were many underlying situations that were hinted at in Octavia's past, yet none of them play into the story or affect her decisions. The ending left me saying, "uh... what?" when they decide to become airship pirates. Up to that point, her life had been all about order and propriety.

I did manage to get to the end of the book, holding on to those moments of humor I knew she could bring to her books, but this is one I'm afraid I wouldn't recommend. I think perhaps she simply didn't have a firm grasp on what steampunk is and does better sticking to the vampires and dragons.

Prince of Dreams
Curt Benjamin
DAW Publishing
0756401143 $7.99

In this second volume of the Seven Brothers trilogy, Prince Llesho continues his quest to find his brothers. With the flavor of the Far East's mythology, he has gods both mortal and divine aiding him. The world is lush, rich and vividly described. This was a hard book to put down, keeping the pages turning.

It was nice to read a book that didn't focus on everything being happy or working out. Llesho loses friends, mentors, allies and many of his own youthful dreams as he slowly grows into the king his brothers know him to be. Through it all, an evil magician that had once held Llesho enslaved is searching to reclaim him, forcing the young king to decide between doing what the gods ask, doing what he wishes, and doing what his friends want.

The story stays focused on the main character while weaving in the thoughts and opinions of others. The question that comes again and again to the "Husband of the Goddess" as his brothers call him, is at what point does a man break? How much can he take before he wants to give up? How many li must he travel to finally claim his rightful inheritance? What is the safety of the Goddess' garden worth when everything that matters to him is taken away?

I related to the character on many levels and can't wait to start on the final novel in this trilogy!

Karlene Clark

Karyn's Bookshelf

Meg Cabot
Point/Scholastic, Inc.
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
9780545284103, $17.99

Best-selling author Meg Cabot mesmerizingly retells the myth of Persephone, Greek Goddess of the Underworld, with stunning prose and passion. That Cabot, author of the Princess Diaries series, is a master of her craft is undeniable. Abandon is the story of 15-year-old Pierce Oliviera, whose drowning in a backyard pool sends her briefly to the Underworld, where the recently dead board ships to their final destination. Pierce escapes back to Earth to the dismay of John, the Underworld's ruler who has fallen in love with her and wants her to stay forever with him. He also knows that if she returns to Earth, she'll be hunted by the spirits of those he has put on boats to Hell, who are seeking revenge. Back on earth two years later, Pierce's miraculous recovery is clouded by frequent encounters with John, who roams a cemetery on the south Florida island on which her mother grew up, where she and her mother have relocated. The story grows ever darker as a string of people known by Pierce end up dead or injured. To stay alive herself, she may have to choose between life on earth or a sequestered life below with John. For a mythological/literary character on which to base a young adult book, Persephone ranks up there with Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, which has been modernized countless times, most famously in the 1957 Broadway musical West Side Story. Readers need not be familiar with Persephone to enjoy Abandon; Cabot's novel is so engaging, with a writing style that is so astutely in tune with modern teen readers that it stands on its own. But Cabot weaves in many of the myth's threads, including the significance of certain flowers and the heroine's deep relationship with her mother, so that knowing the myth is lends interesting literary dimension. Abandon is the first in a planned trilogy; given the quality of this first installment, the sequels could be the most anticipated follow-ups since Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series.

The Secret Box
Barbara Lehman, author and illustrator
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
9780547238685 $15.99

On the top floor of a 19th or early 20th Century orphanage that's flanked by little more than a train depot and distant, scattered farms, a boy hides a saltwater taffy box under a floorboard. Time passes, maybe 100 years, and the house now lies deep in an urban setting. A trio of modern-day orphans finds the box and marvels at its contents: old photos, a map and mementos from the Seahorse Pier amusement park. Using these aids, the children find their way to Seahorse Pier, where a large group of children from a variety of eras are frolicking.

In this, her latest wordless picture book, Lehman never directly answers whether the modern-day children are imaging this wonderful place or whether they've actually been magically whisked there. Young readers are left to decide for themselves what is real and what is make-believe. Young readers will delight in flipping pages back and forth to see how the landscape fills in over time while many elements, including the yellow-side orphanage, train tracks, a clock tower and a gazebo, remain constantly placed, though more aged-looking, as the story progresses. Joyfully wistful for eras bygone, and beautifully illustrated,"The Secret Box" may spur children to take a longer look at the older structures in their community, and to consider all that's grown up around them. And it may prove inspiring to anyone (child or adult) who's ever craved a bit of magic to carry them from the dreary here and now to a brighter, Crayola-colored alternative.

Karyn L. Saemann

Katherine's Bookshelf

Buddy Finds a Home
Rachel Edmiston
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 E Trace Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064
9781615666096 $8.99

Rachel Edmiston has written a lovely book about a little scraggly, scruffy dog who wants a home. When he does not get picked by visitors and all of his brothers and sisters do, he decides to take things in his own paws. He goes in search of a warm and comfortable home in which to live. Buddy Finds a Home is the quest by the little puppy as he looks for his ideal family.

"...However, Buddy did not only want a home; he wanted a boy. A boy he could run and play with outside. A boy he could cuddle at night as they drifted off to sleep. A boy he could love each and every day of his life."

Children will find it a fun and exciting book to read. Parents will be able to use it as a tool to teach tolerance and the fact that what we look like is not what makes us a good friend.

You have always heard about the little dog that follows the little boy or girl home and the plea of "Can I keep him?" Buddy follows a different person home who makes the plea for him. You must read the book to find out who this mysterious person is.

Buddy Finds a Home is the 2011 NTBF Award Winner for children's books, presented at the North Texas Book Festival on April 16, 2011 at the Center for the Visual Arts in Denton, Texas.

Dragons for Kris
Galand A. Nuchols
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595349784 $8.95

Abuse in any form is horrific. Abuse against a child is even more so. In this well told story, Dragons for Kris, Galand A. Nuchols relates the story of a young boy who is abused by his uncle and has to find a way to get out of the abusive situation.

Kris's dreams of dragons are a precursor of what is to come when he wakes up. The dreams are a well presented ploy that youngsters can identify with.

"...He wasn't at all surprised to see his bedroom doorway grow larger. Nor was he surprised to see a small, prissy dragon glide into the room. She inspected the room before advancing to Kris's bed.... Once there, she straightened the sheets. Kris could see her clearly then."

So goes Kris's dream of his grandmother (the Little Dragon) and his hope that she would be there to protect him from anything that might hurt him. Learn how this formidable little lady is the firebrand who starts Kris down his road to safety. Also, learn about the others, friends and family, who help him overcome his past.

Ms. Nuchols paints great word pictures of Kris, his grandfather, grandmother and aunt. They are the mythical beings turned into flesh and blood people who protect him from his fears. Contrary to these wonderful people, the author's dragon picture of Kris's uncle is dark and menacing. They all come together, with the exception of the uncle, in a collage of a family that works together to solve a problem that is all too prevalent in our society. Children and adults alike will find life lessons within the pages of this book.

One side effect of an abusive situation is highlighted in the way Kris reacts to his grandfather's statements about everyday things, such as a simple statement about his grandmother or having a meal at a diner. Kris is afraid of how his grandfather will react.

I am looking forward to reading the sequel to Dragons for Kris so I can follow Kris and his family as he begins his new life in California.

Galand Nuchols is a teacher who retired to write adventure stories for children. Now she visits schools to talk to the students about her books and the lessons they teach. She lives in East Texas with her husband. Her activities when she is not writing and visiting schools include visiting her children, traveling, supporting her church, reading and working with her husband on Habitat for Humanities projects.

Dragon Hatchling
Galand Nuchols
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln NE 68512
9780595463466 $11.95

Dragon Hatchling is the sequel to Dragons for Kris. Galand Nuchols has again written a book that will give the reader much 'food for thought'.

Kris has made the move to California. His beloved Aunt Katherine soon follows him when his uncle's abuse is meted out on her. Although Kris is assured that they are safe, he still has a little doubt, reinforced by his dreams of good and bad dragons.

"New curtains and a new bedspread featuring baseball players and equipment replaced the old ones in the room once belonging to his mother. They transformed the room from a girl's room to a boy's room. The changes made Kris feel welcome and wanted, but not safe. Nothing could make him feel safe after seeing what his uncle had done to Aunt Katherine shortly after he and Grandpa left Kentucky two weeks before."

This story tells of a bully in school and how Kris and his friends deal him and his followers. He also meets up with his uncle again and his innovative way of stopping his uncle from carrying out his nefarious scheme is riveting.

During all of this, Kris finds a way to help a new friend, Ernesto, overcome a handicap that could have proven debilitating to a lesser child. Soon, Ernesto, with Kris's help, becomes 'one of the group'.

Just as I did in her first book, Dragons for Kris, I still like the way in which Mrs. Nuchols inserts local attractions that will entice the readers to want to visit those entertaining and educational sites. In one scenario, she associates animals in the San Diego zoo to the happenings in Kris's and his friends lives. Although the result of their report to a zoo official is not detailed by the author, we can assume that it relates to the storyline of one of the issues portrayed in the lives of the human characters.

Children and adults will really like finding out what happens to Kris, his family and his new friends.

Galand Nuchols is a teacher who retired to write adventure stories for children. Now she visits schools to talk to the students about her books and the lessons they teach. She lives in East Texas with her husband. Her activities when she is not writing and visiting schools include visiting her children, traveling, supporting her church, reading and working with her husband on Habitat for Humanities projects.

Second Chance
Galand Nuchols
Tate Publishing
127 E Trade Center Terrace, Mustang OK 73064
9781617392815 $11.92

Galand Nuchols doesn't need a second chance. She has written another thought provoking book in Second Chance.

Josh and Leroy are best friends. They are always being blamed for everything from missing watermelons to a bull in the wrong pasture. The problem is that they are the ones who do most of the mischief they are blamed for.

""We get blamed for everything anyway, even when we don't do it." Leroy laughed. "We might as well do it if we are going to get blamed for it.""

This book is fraught with mystery, mischief and wrongs being made right. There are people wanting to buy up mineral rights because there are speculators who think there is oil in the area. There is a mysterious man who visits Leroy's Mother several times for unknown reasons. Later, Leroy has to deal with this situation. There is a bully who is dealt with in an innovative way by the two boys and their friends. Second chances abound as the story unfolds.

Galand Nuchols is a teacher who retired to write adventure stories for children. Now she visits schools to talk to the students about her books and the lessons they teach. She lives in East Texas with her husband. Her activities when she is not writing and visiting schools include visiting her children, traveling, supporting her church, reading and working with her husband on Habitat for Humanities projects.

While There is Still Time
Terrell Dunnum
Tate Publishing
127 E Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064
9781617397325 $8.99

In his book, While There is Still Time, Terrel Dunnum has written a very incisive, prophetic tome of poetry based on biblical scriptures.

He asks us to think about the following as we read his poems:

1. What understanding am I getting from this poem?

2. What does it say to me personally?

3. How can it help others?

4. Who are the people that come to mind?

5. What is God leading me to do?

Mr. Dunnum has his poems separated into several aspects of the Christian life, "I Am", "To All Those in Need", "My Reward", "To Those Who Try Me" and "To the Church". He leads the reader to search for the truth in his or her life and asks you to share those truths. You quite possibly will be inspired to question your life choices and make some changes. There are pages with room to make notes as you answer the above questions or make personal notes.

The poems are all reminiscent of the Bible scriptures he has written about. They are enjoyable, not only for the message they impart, but also in the poetic rhythm of the lines he writes. You will be touched by the message and the thoughtfulness that Mr. Dunnum puts into his work.

Terrell Dunnum is the founder of Total Freedom Ministries, Inc., an organization that provides mentoring and biblical counseling to youth and families in crisis. He has a Master's Degree in Christian counseling from the American Bible College and Seminary. He is also a teacher and ordained non-denominational minister.

The Murphy Five and the Guardian in the Woods
Peri Weaks
Tate Publishing
127 E Trade Center Terrace, Mustang OK 73064
9781617392815 $10.99

The Murphy Five and the Guardian in the Woods is a story about five brothers and sisters who move from a large city in California to Texas when their mother takes a job at a resort in the Hill Country and their father becomes a Texas Ranger. The whole family has many exciting adventures as they get used to their new environment. The country lifestyle is more liberating for the kids than city living had been and they take full advantage of it.

""...I got up and looked out of the window and saw a dog sitting in our driveway. He was howling. After I came to the window, he stopped. I got scared and ran back to bed and got under the covers."

"Maybe it was a wolf. They have them here, don't they?" inquired Alexa.

"They have coyotes," replied Justin.""

As their mother settles into her new job and their father's new job only gets lets him come home one weekend a month, the children are left to take care of themselves for the most part. Sometimes they make good decisions, but most of the time, they don't. The trouble they get into is mostly just children's hi-jinks, but one or two times they get into some bad situations that could have caused them harm. But, all in all, they have a lot of fun as they go through this new chapter of their lives.

In one of their adventures, they meet an Indian chief named Tate Owen, when they inadvertently camp on the Chief's Indian land. He tells them amazing stories of Indian folklore in front of a campfire as he shares the makings for s'mores. Mr. Owen is building an Indian village, one teepee at a time, to show people how the Indians lived in days gone by. He meets them while they are on a camping trip and he invites the kids to camp on his land whenever they want.

They also have an unknown protector that is revealed at the end of the book. Suffice it to say that this protector watches out for them throughout the whole book and is instrumental in helping them out of many of the scrapes they get into.

Peri Weaks lives near Dallas with her husband and son. She graduated from the University of Oklahoma as a business major and became an accountant for many years. Then she decided to follow her dream and become a writer.

J. A. Sanderlin
Tate Publishing
127 E Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064
9781615660711 $19.99

Science fiction has changed a lot since I read it as a young person in the days of Heinlein and Asimov. But of course it has to, since I was taught that science fiction was the science of the future. Mr. Sanderlin has not disappointed me in that respect. Europa is the first in his series entitled The Black Chronicles. It is going to be interesting to see how the stories unfold as Jonas Black discovers the world outside of the mining company on Europa, one of Jupiter's moons and his domicile of choice at the beginning of the story.

Jonas and his father build a futuristic craft, named Manta that Jonas plans to use to investigate the unexplored underwater world of Europa.

After he leaves on his journey, unbeknownst to him, his home is taken over by mercenaries.

"It was always easy to stay where you were comfortable, to never step out and try something new. Jonas did not want to be one of those unadventurous people who never tried anything. He did not want to grow old and wish he had done more, or at least made the attempt. It was not that he didn't enjoy peace and quiet, but he did not want to miss the chance to take a look around at all the galaxy had to offer."

As the story unfolds, Jonas loses Manta to the mercenaries, but gains another ship in which he has installed the artificial intelligence of Manta and with the help of his best friends and an old friend of his parents; he deals with the mercenaries and the death of his parents who were killed by the mercenaries.

The author is going to have an exciting and memorable series with The Black Chronicles as he follows Jonas and his friends through the future. I am looking forward to reading his next book.

Mr. Sanderlin lives in Texas and spends his time studying physics, biology, natural history, weapons and martial history. A true scientist.

Katherine Boyer

Kaye's Bookshelf

Bread and Wine
(Leb I Vino)
Trefor R. Stockwell
5 Weir Road, Kibworth Beauchamp
Leicester LE8 0LQ, UK
9781848765894 $12.09

Quoting from the back cover:

"The title of the collection, Bread and Wine (Leb I Vino), derives from the old Bulgarian custom of hospitality to strangers: it is considered a great discourtesy if visitors to Bulgarian homes are not offered food and drink, and an even greater discourtesy if this offer is then turned down.

"'It was a lesson I quickly learned,' says Trefor, 'and one that afforded me much pleasure, inspiration, and - I might add - several king-size hangovers!'

"Fans of short stories and Magical Realist fiction will enjoy this collection of stores, which range from those inspired by the dark and bloody history of the 500-year-long Ottoman occupation, the folk-lore and onto those reflecting, modern-day Bulgarian life; an eclectic mix from bawdy comedy to psychological bleakness."

Bread and Wine is indeed a magical, well-written, well-edited read with an interesting, attractive cover. I thoroughly enjoyed each and every story, and that it had its roots in Bulgaria, little known to me, added to the delight. Clearly, Trefor R. Stockwell is an accomplished, exceptional writer with a unique gift.

I would like to share with you an excerpt from the story, Researching the Researcher, which I particularly liked: A little background here...the writer is writing about trying to write on his laptop computer.

"So here I am seated in front of the accursed machine. I have an innate fear, you see, of all thing technical. To me they have a mind of their own, and they don't appear to like me, which is fair enough. I suppose as I spend half my time bemoaning the fact that they work against instead of with me. I curse and swear at the strange 'pop up boxes' that appear uninvited, unheralded and unwelcome on my screen. I threaten, cajole and eventually retreat in the face of this inhuman intelligence. But, I am told by those who know about these things that 'they are only machines' that 'you can turn them off' and that 'they are inanimate objects'. But I can help doubting, and I can't help wondering, as I gaze at the flickering screen, at the possibility of some malignant inhuman being lurking behind the plastic waiting for an opportunity to emerge and fry my brain. It's another sign of the change in me and I'm sure it's another affect of this place. My armour of atheism is gradually being eroded - a kind of osmosis of spirituality is taking place and I am at a loss to explain this phenomenon away, and it is a phenomenon which any dark day now threatens to force me on my knees praying to a god I have always denied.

"There is a mirror on the wall behind my screen, in which I can see my own reflection. I am surprised to find that I look much the same as I did in my old life. Oh the lines are a bit more pronounced, the jowls a tad more saggy and the hair line continues to recede, but essentially I remain physically unchanged.

"I recognise the face, it is familiar to me, but I feel no attachment to it. It is as if the inner me, that indefinable energy source, call it soul, call it spirit, call it ego, call it what you will, has become divorced from the physical me. I still make use of this husk of a body, but it is now simply a convenient vehicle for propelling myself from one place to another, and for conveying my thoughts (such as they are), needs and desires (such as they are) to those around me. In return for this I ensure it is fed, watered, cleaned and suitably stabled. Our relationship to each other is one of convenience, and I feel no great affection towards this weak and feeble shell, and would discard it without a pang of conscience should I feel the need. However, for the time being we need each other, this thing and I."...

"Curiously I know not if I am happy, or unhappy, contented, or discontented, settled, or unsettled. I feel as if I am adrift on a dream ocean, with no compass, sextant or rudder, entirely reliant on winds, currents and the whims of fate. It is not an unpleasant feeling, but then neither is it a pleasant one. I appear to have become numbed, anesthetised by the slow steady heartbeat of this place."

If you enjoyed this little excerpt, like the short-story genre and want more, that can be easily arranged. Purchase a copy of Bread and Wine, which I highly recommend - both that you do and the book, and if you've read many of my past reviews, you know I do not 'highly recommend' very often.

Tom's Wife
Alana Cash
Hacienda Press
Los Angeles, CA
9781449996321 $12.95

Quoting from the back cover:

""She already hated being married to Tom after less than a year of it. Hated the three-room pine house with its bare floors and windows. She'd gone home once to her mama's house trying to get out of it, but her mama told her, 'A good woman don't go off on her husband'..." (pg.3)

"Annie is nineteen, illiterate, and married to Tom Huckaby. It is the Great Depression and Tom works in a coal mine, leaving Annie to tend the farm and their newborn son. When he's home, Tom is crude and callous. For Annie it's a lonesome life filled by walks to the general store, attending church, and visits from her friend Twila who helps her defy Tom and earn some money of her own by selling eggs.

"One afternoon, a traveling peddler named Jake Stern wanders up to Annie's porch in a clean white shirt selling notions and tenderness. After that, everything on the farm belongs to Tom, except Annie's heart.

Alana Cash is an award-winning filmmaker and short story author. She taught writing in Austin, Texas and was one of 60 U.S. teachers profiled in the PBS series 'A Writer's Exchange.' As a child, she spent summers on a farm in Arkansas. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

Tom's Wife has been produced as an award-winning feature film."

It's wonderful that Alana Cash has such strong credentials and that her novel, Tom's Wife, has been made into a film, and I wish her continued success. However, this 300-page-plus, simple story did not appeal to me. That does not mean it won't appeal to you. The second paragraph from the back cover pretty much sums of Annie's life. Add some abject poverty, single-minded motherly devotion, wifely hate, and guilt-ridden adultery. I won't disclose the ending, but I doubt you'll be surprised.

In my opinion the plot is simplistic and the character development shallow, with the exception of Annie, of course, as she is the protagonist. Alana Cash's writing style is what I call typical or average - she gets the job done - but there's nothing there to savor, and the novel could use one more editing for minor errors. I imagine Tom's Wife could be considered a poignant story about a dirt-poor family during the Great Depression; possibly that's its appeal. Check it out for yourself...she's the award winner.

Kaye Trout

Logan's Bookshelf

The A-Men
John Trevillian
9781848763432, $18.99,

Survival asks at times strange things of you. "The A-Men" is a twist of fantasy, science fiction, and more, as John Trevillian crafts a dystopian future where the fate of it all may lie on the shoulders of an amnesiac, the last believer of a dying faith, a hairdresser and an assortment of other unique and oddball characters, in an area only referred to as the Dead City. With plenty of dark humor and adventure, "The A-Men" is a read that is gripping and will keep coming at the reader with new ideas and twists along the way.

The Ghost Toucher
Gerald Rice
Severed Press
Privately Published
9780980799620, $13.95,

When ghosts are a reality, the reality that come with it can be quite frightening. "The Ghost Toucher" is set in such a world, as author Gerald Rice tells a story of the disappearance of Ghost based Reality television host Stout Roost and the plight of Kelly Greene, assistant to the detective charged to find him, Israel. Faced with ghosts who hate their former state and seeking to end all life, "The Ghost Toucher" is a riveting blend of mystery, paranormal, and thriller, making for a delightful blend of fiction, highly recommended.

The Spirit Says "Come"
Irka Kmiec
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781456714796, $11.99,

The spirits around us talk to us in many ways, direct and indirect. "The Spirit says "Come"" is a collection of stories of those who have reached out to near death experiences, angels, and demons who surround them. Sharing her own experiences as well as others, Irka Kmiec hopes to offer relevancy for others who have felt there lives changed by paranormal experience. "The Spirit says "Come"" is a thoughtful compilation for spiritual readers.

Fruit of the Vine
Cynthia Kolko
Charles River Press
Privately Published
9781936185276, $14.95,

There is something more rich than money. "Fruit of the Vine" follows Jem Loud, a young man of agriculture who enjoys his quiet life. When development and money enters his town, he finds his farm threatened by dollar signs, and he has to make a lot of tough decisions and decide what's important and what his family truly means. "Fruit of the Vine" is a moving and riveting read of small town life, family, and a bit of wine tossed into it all.

Immortal Obsession
Denise K. Rago
Privately Published
9781452877532, $13.95,

When your lifespan is centuries, you find grudges manage to live as long as you do. "Immortal Obsession" tells the story off Christian Du Maure, a young man who was entered into the Vampiric world during the French Revolution. As time passes, he moves through the world, trying to leave the wars behind. As his children are threatened, Christian finds that old grudges only die when those involved do, and he must act fast to put the past to rest once and for all. "Immortal Obsession" spins a unique story of romance, intrigue, and the paranormal into a delightfully fun and quick read.

Rev. Bucky
Joe Milton Murphy
Vantage Press Inc.
419 Park Avenue South, 18th floor
New York, NY 10016
9780533163328 $13.95

History buff and socially conscious citizen Joe Milton Murphy presents Rev. Bucky, a wry, tongue-in-cheek discourse of critical modern issues from a most unusual perspective. When an ordinary church mouse undergoes some extraordinary changes (steroids and a head transplant are involved), he begins to preach his mind, and engage in spirited dialogue that will provoke thought as well as moments of laugher. The format of Rev. Bucky ranges from prose to poetry to dialogue discourse to even the occasional passage of music, but its irreverent flair remains irrepressible throughout!

Book Promoting
Kristen James
Privately Published
9780984636822, $9.99,

Social media has become the ideal way to advertise your book, but not everyone is an internet butterfly. "Book Promoting 101: How to Tell The World About Your Book" is a guide to the modern publishing industry and how to get your book out there and known when using print on demand services. Promotion starts soon after the book is written, as author Kristen James covers cover art, creating a website, and how to use the internet to its fullest. "Book Promoting 101" is a must for anyone who is taking book promotion under their own power.

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

Life on Hold
Karen McQuestion
Amazon Encore
PO Box 400818, Las Vegas, NV 89140
9781935597278, $9.95,

When you only have one friend, you'd do anything for them. "Life on Hold" is a youth novel following perennial outsider Rae as she tries to bolt down in her life in Wisconsin. When she makes friends with Allison, she learns of someone having it worse than her, and soon finds that Allison has many more problems than she can understand. With her only friend on the line, Rae must act quick and wisely, or lose everything. "Life on Hold" is a thoughtful story of friendship and growing up to face what's left behind.

Blackberry Creek
Rachel McCoy
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781456717476, $15.95,

When attending a family funeral for a murdered love one, one doesn't expect the murder to be buried within one's own family. "Blackberry Creek" follows Alexander Koplin as this dedicated mother comes back to her childhood home when her step-grandmother turns up dead, leaving her to dig deeper into the family's dark history and finding much that's hidden within the family's dark secrets. A riveting blend of family thriller and mystery, "Blackberry Creek" should prove a fun and very highly recommended read.

Rationalist Spirituality
Bernardo Kastrup
O Books
9781846944079, $14.95,

Rationality should not hate spirituality. "Rationalist Spirituality: An Exploration of the Meaning of Life and Existence informed by Logic and Science" looks to bridge these two concepts, as Dr. Benardo Kastrup explains how these can co-exist and lead to a greater understanding between it all. Criticizing modern science that seems to be working at destroying the purpose of human existence, he offers his counter stance, and provides much to ponder. "Rationalist Spirituality" provides much to think about on human existence, and our greater place in a scientific yet faithful world.

The Great Singapore Penis Panic
Scott D. Mendelson
Privately Published
9781456498016, $15.49,

There's something to be learned from people fearing death via loss of genitals. "The Great Singapore Penis Panic: And the Future of American Mass Hysteria" is a personal study from Scott D. Mendelson of a scare in the 1960s on the island of Singapore, where hundreds believed their penises were shrinking and would eventually lead to their death. Using this strange history as basis, he offers a unique comparison to American hysteria that happens when faced with more traditional fears. "The Great Singapore Panic" is an intriguing study of fear and its driving effect on the human psyche.

Change Making
Richard Bevan
Change Start Press
c/o CreateSpace
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200, Scotts Valley, CA 95066
Kathryn Hall, Publicist (publicity)
PO Box 1486, Ukiah, CA 95482
9781449969981, $24.95,

Change is a good thing, when done right. "Change Making: Tactics and Resources for Managing Organizational Change" is a guide to doing change right in business, as Richard Bevan who has worked with businesses around the world, offers his own ideas and expertise on the many elements of change and how a business needs to implement them well to dodge the obstacles that come with changing the business machine in any way. Emphasizing clarity, communication, leadership and understanding concerns of employees, "Change Making" is a must for any business about to undergo a serious change in protocol.

Children of Mercy
Ron Trembath, editor
Marquette Books
Privately Published
9780983347613, $22.95,

You don't need connections to teach and learn about the finer points of music. "Children of Mercy: Tales and Teachings from the World of Independent Music" is a collection of stories of making one's way as a musician. Forty stories offer wisdom on finding one's place in the music world, on how to do it yourself, dealing with bands, the impact on the internet in many aspects of the process, "Children of Mercy" is education in anecdote, a top pick for anyone making their career in independent music.

101 Almost Free Gardening Projects
Hilery Hixon
Privately Published
9781456519827, $12.95,

Gardening can save you money without spending a lot of it. "101 Almost Free Gardening Projects: Plan, Build, Grow, Harvest" is a guide to getting into gardening without any significant monetary investment, as Hilery Hixon walks readers through over one hundred projects that cost nothing or very little. From creating tools yourself to finding cheap seeds and making the most of your space, "101 Almost Free Gardening Projects" is a fine compilation of knowledge for any frugal gardener.

Margaret Lane

Mayra's Bookshelf

Instant Poetry (Just Add Words!)
"Laughing" Larry Berger
iUniverse, Inc.
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450255523 $8.95

I was intrigued when I received a copy of this poetry chapbook for review. It isn't the typical poetry book. The author, 'Laughing' Larry Berger, 'wrote' or improvised these poems onstage as part of an audience participation free verse sets at coffee houses in Los Angeles in 1996.

It isn't easy to write poetry, much less improvise it in front of an audience, which is why I was delighted to discover Berger's wit, imagination, and flair for language.

The verses, some as short as a few lines and some long enough for two pages, explore various subjects and themes, from fun and light to serious and transcendent.

A good example of the author's lighter poems is "Bubble Gum." It catches a moment, a single snapshot of pure joy.

Soft and warm between my teeth,

an old lover returns

sweet and tangy inside my mouth.

Over and over she dances,

building evermore desire.

Slowly she turns up the heat,

stoking the fires


her passions no longer confinable


releasing the rapture of the moment!

And then

She slides along my tongue

For one



A recurring theme in this work is the idea that modern men are trapped, caged, slaves and prisoners of their own cars and apartments. The following stanza is from "Leprosy."

Rotting corpses walking down the street

are they really so different from you and me?

They get up, go to work, come home,

all in steel and concrete coffins.

In other poems, such as "Four Thousand Years Ago (The Crack Baby's Prayer)," the author takes a philosophical look at life, presenting the reader with a grim picture of society, injustice, and the violence inflicted by humans throughout history. Berger uses the symbolic metaphor of rivers red with blood - this metaphor, by the way, is also recurrent in some of his other poems.

Some of my favorite poems in this book are the ones where Berger captures one single moment of happiness in a world where disaster looms in every corner. For example, in "Green Tea Ice Cream," which is about the prediction that the world will end in 2012, Berger ends the verse with:

Right now

I've got my green tea ice cream

I'm happy.

There are a several memorable lines in this collection. This from "Ten Foot Pole."

Thousands homeless

or out of work, downing

Anti-depressant medication

As that statue out in the harbor

Spreads her legs to the world.

The following, my favorite, is from "Stop Laughing!"

To stop laughing

is to resign ourselves to

coffins of skin!

I'm not sure if Berger meant to leave his best poem for last, but "Cold KFC in N.Y.C." was definitely the best for me. The poem, which reads like a story, is about a man who has just been mugged in Grand Central:

You see

an hour ago

I was kissing concrete

back at Grand Central

with the barrel of a

.357 shoved into the back

Of my skull.

The man, who has just missed death, goes back to his crummy, cold flat and collapses from terror and exhaustion. Later he wakes up hungry and the only thing left in his fridge is some cold KFC leftovers. Berger ends the poem - and the book - with:

And folks

I've got to tell you!


Instant Poetry (Just Add Words!) is a collection of forty-eight poems. I was surprised at the author's creativity, good humor, and, at times, depth about the human condition. Some of these poems were performed on stage along the West Coast and New York and were created in interactive poetry readings. It is a unique and ingenious concept. I don't read poetry often but I found Instant Poetry engaging and interesting. If you enjoy poetry and would like to try something different, I recommend you grab a copy of this book.

The Immortality Virus
Christine Amsden
Twilight Times Books
P O Box 3340
Kingsport TN 37664
9781606190036 $18.95

Christine Amsden's second novel, The Immortality Virus, raises an intriguing question: Is it really all that wonderful to find the secret of immortality and live forever?

It's the 21st century and the world is being ruled by The Establishment, a totalitarian government made of an elite few. People don't age anymore. As a result, overpopulation has created poverty, hunger, violence, and chaos. People don't even have empathy for their fellow human beings anymore and cruelty and murder abound. Only the elite few can afford to eat normal food; the rest feed on suspicious, high-protein nutri-bars believed to be made up of human flesh.

At the beginning of the story, our feisty 130-year old PI protagonist, Grace Harper, is hired to complete a mission: she must discover the whereabouts of Jordan Lacklin, the scientist responsible for the 'virus' that started The Change about 400 years ago while working on the cure for Alzheimer's. The secret mission puts Grace's life in danger. On one side, there are those who want to undo The Change to improve the quality of life and the world; on the other side, there are those who want to keep living forever because they have the means to live in luxury... and they'll go to extremes to make sure Grace doesn't complete her mission.

The Immortality Virus is an entertaining, dystopian/science fiction novel with an interesting premise. Grace Harper is a sympathetic, kick-ass heroine: strong, spirited and opinionated. She also has a kind heart that stands out in the cruel society she inhabits. I personally loved her witty comebacks and quirky sense of humor. Although the story gets a bit slow somewhere around the middle, Amsden offers enough action, twists and turns to keep most readers turning the pages. The dialogue is crisp and natural and helps to keep the pace moving. Amsden uses a lot of dialogue and action scenes, and keeps description and narration at a minimum. If you love dystopian novels with strong heroines and you're attracted to the subject of immortality, I recommend you give this one a try.

Mayra Calvani

Molly's Bookshelf

Brothers of a Band Tooter's Tour of Duty
B J Lambesis
Marketing Methods Press
9780962479854 $12.00

B.J. Lambesis' BROTHERS OF A BAND Tooter's Tour of Duty begins when Theo learns to toot. To the despair of his mother Beatrice, Theodore Rawlings' teeth were always prone to cavities. Try as she might Beatrice didn't seem to have many options when it came to Theo's teeth. Theo was in 4th grade when the school sent home a flier announcing formation of a school band. Theo thought the trumpet would be a good instrument to learn. Theo's jock dad was not enthralled.

From that beginning the reader is carried along with Theo, permission slip in hand, money for fees and a dental appointment which kept him from the trumpet, trombones, baritones and French horns, saxes, flutes, snare drums and cymbals. There were a piccolo and some clarinets left for choosing. Choosing a clarinet was the start of his musical journey which would take him to first chair middle school band and high school band, high school orchestra, and his college marching band while he was earning a bachelor's degree.

Finding himself facing much problem landing a job with a symphony, Tooter began hanging drywall with his dad, found a job with the local orchestra, gave private music lessons, until finally he joined the army to make music, but, found himself spending most of his time training or as a boots on the ground infantryman in Afghanistan. Two tours of duty, he finally returned to Phoenix where he spent several days with his dad, and his wife. He visited Beatrice's grave, rented a loft in a converted office building in downtown Phoenix, received a teacher's certificate, tendered his resume to every school district in the metropolitan area, began teaching at a nearby middle school where he discovered he actually enjoyed the classroom, and during a music conference ran into an old high school band classmate.

Writer Lambesis notes that this book is a work of fiction, every part is a product of the author's imagination. She also want readers to know new military recruits go through several phases of training prior to assignment to military occupational units.

Lambesis notes; The one character who is non fictional is Mullah Mohammad Omar, founder of the Taliban.

An appealing, quick read exploring the way in which diverse stages of our lives interconnect in multifaceted manner to widen into totally unanticipated results.

What a compelling read, packed with more than a little wit, satirical descriptions of life, memory piquing insight into the life of little musicians, peeks into what it's like for those serving in the military, and day to day living in general from childhood to the years of old age.

I remembered my own boys' beginning musical training, one, as was Tooter, is a clarinetist, who plays a variety of instruments woodwind and percussion; so the tale rang a special note for me.

Tales of the high school are depicted with the wit of one who has perhaps been a part of a high school band.

Theodore - Tooter- Rawlings and his life have come alive on the pages of Writer Lambesis' first published book. Hopefully she has more to follow.

Happy to recommend B.J. Lambesis' BROTHERS OF A BAND Tooter's Tour of Duty

NOTE: all author proceeds from sales of BROTHERS OF A BAND Tooter's Tour of Duty will be donated to the Wounded Warrior Project and public school music programs

Thump, Quack, Moo: A Whacky Adventure
Doreen Cronin, author
Betsy Lewin illustrator
9781416916307 $16.99

Doreen Cronin's - Thump, Quack, Moo: A Whacky Adventure opens with Farmer Brown preparing for the annual Corn Maze Festival. He plans to make a Statue of Liberty corn maze. Osage County First Grade giggles as they peer at the page showing Farmer Brown perusing a graph and a book entitled Corn Mazes.

Osage County First Grade is fascinated by the idea of corn mazes.

None have ever been to a maze or have trudged the paths cut into corn mazes. However each and every Little Student is certain that they must be so much fun.

Farmer Brown needs help, first he must bribe the chickens into helping. - I'll let you use my hammers.- NOW they are building a fence around the field and are they excited. CLUCK, WHACK, CLUCK, WHACK.

Next Farmer Brown approaches the recalcitrant cows, however, his promise of use of his paintbrushes soon leads cows to painting with gusto. MOO, THWACK, MOO, THWACK. The cows are excited.

Duck has no desire to help, a quiet talk with the Farmer leads to Duck doing his part. THUMP QUACK, THUMP QUACK, however, Duck is NOT excited.

The mice are busy with a meteorology class, they keep an eye on the weather as the air fills with busy sounds.

Farmer Brown continues with his graph paper and art supplies, his sketch book and his mower. He counts some, he measures some, he cuts.

Unbeknownst to Farmer Brown someone else is doing some sketching and measuring, and counting, and cutting. Someone is becoming a tad excited.

Day after day the work continues, day after day the mice keep an eye on the weather. At last Farmer Brown is finished. That night someone is not yet finished.

On the day of the Corn Maze Festival there are some problems. The chickens will NOT be allowed to use hammers anymore. The barn is not quite as Farmer Brown had in mind, and the ticket booth seems to have a flaw. Nonetheless, Farmer Brown cares only for the maze. Hopping into a hot air balloon he is so excited to at last have a chance to view is maze from above. Duck too is anxious to see this maze, he pays HIS $5 and hops into the basket with Farmer Brown. At last Duck is very excited.

Doreen Cronin's - Thump, Quack, Moo is a hilarious, child pleasing tale filled with intrigue, joy and giggles. Between Writer Cronin's hilarious tale and The zany team of Cronin and Lewis, creators of vastly child pleasing Duck and his group of mutinous cohorts have created a delightful, endearing series that began in 2001 with Caldecott Honor Book Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type go on with the chronicle of Farmer Brown and his barnyard full of defiant critters.

Little readers have been introduced to Farmer Brown and his insubordinate clutch of critters during Kindergarten, they eye the book as the call to the rug is given. Little eyes sparkle, faces glow with anticipation, that Cronin and Lewin are a popular duo for these First Grade Listeners is evident.

The first reading is followed by others during the school year, by the book being taken home for evening reading with parents and siblings, to DEAR reading, and as a book to check out from the school library.

I like the two page spread layout, short sentences, large font and entertaining tale that introduces new vocabulary and fosters the repetition upon which Beginning and Emergent Readers thrive.

Power struggle, chicanery, and sneaky behavior are discussion starters as Little Listeners begin to grasp the subtly of the narrative.

I particularly like the mice and their eye on the weather, a real concern here in Tornado Alley.

Little Listeners recognize what the mice are all about, talk about their role and voice concerns and understandings for the storms that cause even adults moment of pause now and again.

All in all, a fun read for me their teacher and for Osage County First Grade.

Happy to recommend Doreen Cronin's - Thump, Quack, Moo: A Whacky Adventure

Caesar's Fall - An Elliot Smith Mystery
Dorien Grey
Zumaya Boundless
9781936144082 $14.99

Dorien Grey's CAESAR'S FALL An Elliot Smith Mystery is the 3d in this series and number 17 books written by this talented author.

My admiration for Grey and his work only increases with each new work I read.

CAESAR'S FALL begins with Elliot's sister plying an old question, Cessy is a never say die matchmaker, she will see Elliot coupled or perish in the attempt. Every visit, every telephone call eventually gets around to her determination to see Elliot hitched.

Elliot accepts an invitation to his brother-in-laws forty-fifth birthday party, hangs up the telephone and headed for the elevator where he ran into the newest member of the large condo complex.

Bruno has just moved into the flat directly above Elliot's.

Elliot Smith has been working on his current project for a while. The renovation has been going well, friends, Jesse Lambert and Adam Burton bought the 2 flat twentieth century frame originally built as a single family dwelling. Elliot is restoring the structure to his original glory.

Before long Elliot and his almost partner Steve are socializing with Bruno, newly wealthy after winning a hefty lottery. Bruno has a financial advisor, a guru and a group of hangers on to deal with as he learns to use his money wisely. He does not get the opportunity.

Bruno Caesar, self admitted to be frightened of heights even so far as to never going out on his balcony is found after taking a header off that balcony.

Before long - he who cannot be seen-, John is talking with Elliot about Bruno and his confusion. Bruno has not yet grasped that he is dead, he does know that something has taken place.

The tale is interwoven, tracing Bruno and his coming to grips with death, John and his in the head relationship with Elliot, Elliot's living relationship with his family which includes Steve, and buildings to renovate and a murder to solve.

I enjoy the persuasive premise Writer Grey proffers with this captivating series. First meeting John in book one as Elliot awoke in hospital to realize that while he could not see anyone, he did realize someone was there. John, has been close by from that day, has helped to solve his own murder as well as the one in book two, and is a major element in the solving of Bruno's demise.

As with each of Dorien Grey's works, his Elliot Smith Mysteries are filled with interesting, well fleshed characters, set against a backdrop filled with the sights and sounds of Chicago. I can almost see those buildings Elliot searches out to renovate. Old buildings, like old friends, have long been a passion of mine. Perhaps this is why I enjoy Writer Grey's Elliot Smith series so much.

Dialog is peppery at times, filled with energy and energy, moving the narrative along. Prose is set down well, holds reader interest fast and keeps the reader turning the page.

Grey is honing his red herring skills to keep readers on their toes as they lean first to one and then another suspect. Bad guys are suitably loutish, good guys are often funny, appealing, attention-grabbing and always out of the ordinary.

As always; Writer Grey supplies a well written, fast-paced, action motivated narrative overflowing with pretense, voracity and duplicity all generated from first to last by the author's extraordinary writing proficiency.

Delighted to recommend Dorien Grey's CAESAR'S FALL An Elliot Smith Mystery 3d in this series.

NOTE: oblique reference to sexual activity, no graphic sex, little rough language. If you get your knickers in a knot at the notion, don't read, on the other hand, if you are looking for an intriguing read Dorien Grey is an excellent choice.

A Tale of Spirit Yours, Mine and Lessons
Doris Mae Honer
Outskirts Press
9781432723842 $15.95

Doris Mae Honer's A TALE OF SPIRIT Yours, Mine and Lessons from the Universe is an uplifting narrative filled with real people and the life experiences they face.

A TALE OF SPIRIT Yours, Mine and Lessons from the Universe is a work of nearly 200 pages, comprising an introduction, 27 chapters and an epilogue. Chapter titles are an eclectic mix indicating what to expect when the chapter is perused.

Writer Honer showcases actual real people along with their Spirits in this account of life stories coming from oral family history. Life experience is something each of us lives. We each have life experience and life history; in the introduction the writer tells the reader that has included some of her own personal experiences along with those of others. Honer tells us that the individual tales related are not chronological, the reader can certainly begin to read on page 1 and traverse to the final chapter. Or, the reader may want to select a chapter here and a chapter there based on the title of the particular section.

From the first chapter, entitled the Valiant Spirit of Northern Women, on to others about her parents, motherhood, omens, senior discussions, the Canadian health care system, different faces of love and the magic of spirit to list a few; it is amply evident that the writer has set down what interests her most and is what she hopes will interest the reader as well.

Each quick read, numbering 4 or 5 pages to 15 or so is headed with a homily. I like homilies some are credited to names from history; Jean Jacques Rousseau, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Gibran, others she offers herself. All are pithy, out of the ordinary, and interesting.

Writer Honer relates that as she sees emotions and Spirits in color; everyone has the capability within themselves to feel and have Spiritual experiences as well. However that ability is more developed for some than for others. The more open to Spirit and the notion of spirit one is the more the likelihood that Spirit will be manifested.

I particularly enjoyed the first chapter in which three members of Honer's own family are showcased. Honer's grandmother Catherine was psychic.

On the pages of A Tale of Spirit the reader can be expected to gain of sense of something known, but unknown, something apparent while not apparent. Tugging at the reader's heart readers may find them selves responding with emotion, tears, laughter or sadness. The events portrayed are a lifetime of experiences which the author hopes will be appreciated in the unique and unique manner befitting them.

Those who have a sense of psychic power will find much to enjoy, those who do not will also find much to enjoy and may be a little persuaded to begin to have a little sense of the psychic as well.

Inspiring and uplifting, A TALE OF SPIRIT Yours, Mine and Lessons from the Universe is a work to enjoy, reread and keep it handy for thumbing through often.

Happy to recommend Doris Mae Honer's A TALE OF SPIRIT Yours, Mine and Lessons from the Universe.

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Nicole's Bookshelf

Repairing Rainbows
Lynda Fishman
self published
9780986607400 $18.00

This is a book that is hard to read. Repairing Rainbows by Lynda Fishman is an emotionally gut wrenching story. It is a first person account of a thirteen-year-old tragically losing her mother and two sisters in a plane crash. The Air Canada flight went down on July 5, 1970 and Lynda vividly recounts what it was like to try to pick up the pieces of her young life. Making the situation even more difficult, her father retreats into himself leaving her alone in her grief.

I have to admit this book is so powerful I needed to take a break from it after about 100 pages. Lynda's writing elicits such an overwhelming feeling of empathy from the reader that it is like you are right there with her living the nightmare. It is a testament to the strength of the human spirit that she was able to move forward. When I picked up the book again after some time away from it, I was in awe of Lynda's indomitable will to focus on the positive.

But what I liked most about the remainder of the narrative was how honest Lynda was about the continuing struggle to cope with the fragility of her mental state. The turmoil she went through will always be a part of her and she openly acknowledges this indisputable fact. It is a continual uphill battle that she will face for the rest of her life. As a reader, you can't help rooting for her.

You root for her when she meets and falls in love with her soul mate, Barry. When the two get married and start a family, they balance each other perfectly. Barry also lost his mother when he was a child and his father when he was a teenager. The shared bond of pain allows them to form a deep, mutual understanding of each other. It is a beautiful union to behold and you feel grateful that the two of them were able to find each other.

Being the one left behind after a loved one dies in a plane crash is a lonely, unique designation. That is why it is quite touching when Lynda feels such a connection with the victims' families of 9-11. When she lost her mother and sisters, support groups did not exist. She was not put in touch with the surviving members of other families who lost loved ones on that Air Canada plane. She could not really relate to other children who lost family to cancer, a car accident, etc. She was unwillingly assigned to a new category of loss. One that not many people will ever experience.

The book concludes with a section regarding the paranormal. Lynda connects with a medium named Sandy who is able to channel her deceased family members on multiple occasions. Whether you believe in communication after death or not, Lynda receives specific, detailed messages from beyond the grave. It is a fitting way to conclude the book by illustrating that while she may not be able to physically see them, her mother and sisters will be beside her for the rest of her life.

Overall, this is a painful story that is worth the struggle to read.

LM Preston
Phenomenal One Press
PO Box 8231, Elkridge, MD 21075
9780984198931 $14.99

First of all, I have to say I am so proud of LM Preston. Bandits is her third young adult novel, and her writing continues to improve. She is voracious in spreading the word about her work from attending the BookExpo America in New York City to interacting on a daily basis with her fans on Twitter. I highly recommend following her at:

As a small, independent publisher, I cannot commend LM enough for the amount of time and level of dedication she puts into her promotional efforts. LM reached out to me to review Bandits as a part of the online launch party in celebration of the book's June 1st release. After reviewing LM's previous titles The Pack and Explorer X-Alpha, I readily agreed to participate.

LM is a rarity because she writes for teenage boys. So many young adult titles are aimed at a female demographic, and it is refreshing to see an author go after an audience that is not considered "book-friendly." It is an uphill battle to connect with potential readers who are not known to frequent bookstores or libraries. However, LM carries the torch for young guys who are looking for something to read on their Kindles, Nooks and iPads.

What is great about LM's creative approach is that she intertwines a meaningful message amid the fistfights and verbal posturing common among most adolescent guys. In Bandits, she examines the damaged relationship between Daniel and his father, Rayne. The narrative begins with the murder of Rayne, a known criminal mastermind. However, before his untimely death, he was desperately trying to extricate himself from such a dangerous lifestyle. Daniel resented his father's show of weakness in this most macho of cultures. Needless to say after this act of violence, Daniel's emotions are sent into a tumultuous upheaval. He hates his father. He loves his father. He misses his father. He doesn't understand his father. He is his father.

Throughout the course of the story, Daniel tries to work out his interior confusion while unknowingly becoming a better man in the process. If his feelings weren't enough to deal with, he also has to save his planet from utter destruction. Luckily, he has help along the way. His cousin, Faulk, is a runaway pilot who wants to put the family back together. He is a source of undying support for Daniel, but also an ego-centered rival when it comes to affections of Jade, a sharp-tongued beauty attracted to both boys. Not to mention, Daniel's intrepid little brother, Nickel, plays a vital role in restoring his sibling's psyche. While the supporting cast is there for Daniel in his quest, ultimately the responsibility for their fate rests with him.

LM excels in the world of science fiction. There are many references to classic archetypes. The power to restore a planet - the pakeet - is reminiscent of Star Trek's Genesis project. The creepy, crawly vines are a nod to the devil's snare in Harry Potter. The aliens on Purgas remind me of those encountered by Star Wars' Obi Wan Kenobi on Kamino. While the whole pirate aspect is a nod to the adventures of Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow. As always, LM brings her own unique twist to the spectacular imagery of the genre.

At times, the detailed descriptions of each and every movement of a character slows the action down a tad. The book sustains momentum when chapters are kept to around five pages. When paragraphs get too wordy in terms of cliff features and plant life, I couldn't wait to get through them and get back to the witty, snappy dialogue. The verbal interaction among her young cast is where LM excels.

Overall, Bandits is more than capable of stealing a teenage boy's attention.

Nicole Langan, Reviewer

Paul's Bookshelf

Mass Casualties: A Young Medic's True Story of Death, Deception and Dishonor in Iraq, Michael Anthony
a division of F+W Media
57 Littlefield Street, Avon, MA 02322
9781440501838 $22.95

This is one person's chronicle of a year in Iraq as an Army medic. It is not a pretty picture.

The hospital is set up in, supposedly safe, northern Iraq. It has 3 operating rooms, so if a large number of wounded are brought in at the same time, very unpleasant decisions would have to be made about who lives and who dies. Staff Sergeant Gagney, the immediate boss of the medics, is one of those who seems to think that leadership involves lots of yelling. He agonizes for hours over the work schedule, and comes up with a rotating schedule for everyone; first shift one day, then second shift the next day, then third shift the next day, etc. Of course, this totally disrupts everyone's sleep patterns, so that, after a couple of weeks, everyone comes to work looking like the walking dead. After a month, a female staff sergeant, Hudge, is given the responsibility of making a new schedule. In half an hour, she makes up a more rational schedule that gives everyone the same shift each day.

Later, when Hudge goes to Gagney to express her concerns about the way the unit is run, she is loudly accused of being the one with the emotional problem. When she visits the unit's Chaplain and mental Health Officer, Gagney had gotten to them first and told them about her supposedly unstable mental state. Another member of the unit attempts suicide. Instead of being sent home, or otherwise getting the help he needs, he is assigned extra duties, and basically told to suck it up. Another Sergeant shocks the unit by announcing that he is taking an emergency leave because his son has attempted suicide. Word filters back to the unit that he was seen in a local bar, back home, getting very friendly with a couple of prostitutes.

A Marine is brought in with a broken jaw, so he is in a lot of pain. The doctor on duty would rather attend a unit-wide awards ceremony than attend to the Marine. The author is not the only one in the unit who learns the value of Ambien and NyQuil (drunk by the bottle) for nights when sleep is impossible. Did I forget to mention the frequent shellings that send everyone running to the nearest bunker?

To call this a "wonderful" piece of writing might be the wrong word, because it gives many examples of human idiocy in a war zone, but it really is that good. By all means, read the "official" stories of American military personnel in Iraq, the read this to get the "real" story.

Hell Can Wait
Theodore Judson
Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
P.O. Box 1714, Calgary, AB, T2P 2L7, CANADA

9781894063234 $14.95

This modern-day fantasy story is about a soldier from ancient Rome who has been given a second chance.

Maternus (mentioned in Gibbon's "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire") has spent the last 1800 years in Hell because his file was lost. When it is retrieved nd processed, he gets a chance to prove that he is not just a killing machine. When he was alive, there were a number of instances where Maternus would kill only those who deserved to die, and spare the innocent. But Mr. Worthy, and angel, and Banewill, a demon, make the stakes very clear to Maternus. If he loses his temper, and lets out his inner warrior, even once, a new, and very permanent, level of Hell will be created just for him. Is Maternus sent back to the days of the Roman Empire to show that his soul has not totally vanished? He is sent to present-day Aurora, Colorado.

Mr. Worthy sets up Maternus (now Matthew August) with an apartment, and a janitor job at the local middle school. Maternus is also given the ability to read, and he is introduced to the local public library, where he spends much of his time. There he meets Stephen and Shen, both residents of a local rooming house. Stephen, who is white, is one of those who is constantly writing letters to the editor of the local newspaper about some Major Crisis (next week it will be some other Major Crisis). Shen, who is black, is very handsome, and attracts the ladies like flies to honey. He is also a poet, performing at local poetry nights, which Maternus attends.

Mr. Worthy and Banewill give Maternus several seemingly impossible tasks to perform. They inlcude bringing some joy and companionship into the lives of Edith Pink, a student at the school where Maternus works, and Margaret Lambkin, a resident at a local nursing home. Both Edith and Margaret are the sort of people for whom the description "mean, rotten and nasty" is much too generous. Through it all in this strange new world, Maternus is comforted by the memory of Maria, a woman he met during his soldier days, and whom he has never forgotten.

This story is surprisingly good. It's got heart, it's got intelligence and it says a few things about present-day America. The reader will not go wrong with this one.

The Skinny On Time Management: How to Maximize Your 24-Hour Gift
Jim Randel
Rand Media Co
265 Post Road West, Westport, CT 06880
9780984139392 $14.95

Here is another in a series of books that attempts to boil down a large subject area into an easy-to-read format. Intended for busy people who want just the bullet points, this book looks at how to best manage your time.

Write out a time journal for an entire week to see just how you are spending your time. You may think that you are being efficient and productive, but seeing it on paper may change your mind. Can changes be made in your schedule, with more time given to more productive activities? You need to set goals for yourself, whether long-term or short-term. Then you will know how to get from where you are to where you want to be. If your goal is important enough to you, then some other thing you are doing may have to be dropped totally. Choices were never meant to be easy.

The book then covers many ways to maximize your time. Fight the urge to procrastinate. Touch a piece of paper, or email, only once; either respond to it, get rid of it or put it in your file to be worked on later. Are there gaps in your day, like when you are sitting in a waiting room, when you could be working on your Blackberry? Are you a "morning person" or a "night owl?" Work on your hardest and most unpleasant tasks when you are most alert and awake. Learn to plan your day, but don't go overboard with the planning. Prioritize your tasks; which ones come first, and which ones can wait. Break a huge task into smaller, more manageable pieces. Can you batch several appointments, for instance, and get them done in one day? Doing crossword puzzles is a good way to improve your memory. Learn how to focus when you are on a task, and not let distractions get in your way. De-cluttering your office, and your email inbox, will always help. The act of writing a daily To Do list helps focus your mind on what you need to do that day.

Instead of reading a bunch of books on how to manage your time, read this book. It can be read in an hour or so, and does an excellent job of telling the busy person just what they need to know. It is a gem of a book.

Oil Pulling Therapy: Detoxifying and Healing the Body Through Oral Cleansing
Dr. Bruce Fife
Piccadilly Books
P.O. Box 25203, Colorado Springs, CO 80936
9780941599672 $15.95

Here is a safe and very easy way to vastly improve your health without special pills or diets. All it requires is swishing a spoonful of vegetable oil around your mouth for at least 15 minutes at a time.

Many scientific studies have chronicled a link between chronic illness and the health of our mouths (the book references over 150 such studies). Think about it; our mouths are constantly warm and moist, like a tropical rain forest, which is a great breeding ground for germs. They are also open to the outside, so it is very easy for bacteria to enter our mouths and take up residence. From there, the bacteria can enter the bloodstream and travel to any part of the body. There it can cause anything from arthritis to constipation to eczema to hypertension to sinusitis (all of which have been reported as responding to oil pulling).

What do you do? Take a tablespoon of nearly any vegetable oil (the author recommends coconut oil) and swish it around your mouth for several minutes, then spit it out. That's all. Teeth are very porous, full of tiny tubules where the bacteria can hide. Brushing, flossing or mouthwash will not clean out those tubules; oil pulling will. This is not a cure for whatever ails you. Oil pulling simply removes the infection from your mouth so that your body's natural healing properties can do their job.

This is totally safe for children and pregnant women, as the only ingredient is vegetable oil. It can also be done several times a day, if necessary. If you experience side effects, like coughing up mucus, or the sudden onset of what feels like the flu, don't worry about it; it's your body cleaning itself out. Also, don't worry if you don't see any immediate improvement in your health; some people simply heal faster than others. Also, after you are done swishing, do not swallow; spit it out. You don't want to remove the bacteria from your mouth, just to deposit it in your stomach.

Improving your health is not supposed to be this easy. This book is very easy to read for anyone, and is very highly recommended.

100 Simple Things You Can Do to Prevent Alzheimer's and Age-Related Memory Loss
Jean Carper
Little, Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316086851 $19.99

For anyone in middle-age or older, Alzheimer's Disease is a major concern. This book shows easy ways to delay its onset, perhaps for years.

If the recommendations in this book can be reduced to one sentence, it might be: Eat Right and Exercise Regularly. Eat lots of deep color berries, like black raspberries, cranberries, plums and strawberries; they are full of antioxidants. Apple juice can boost the brain's production of acetylcholine, just like the popular Alzheimer's drug Aricept. Large doses of caffeine, like several hundred mg per day, may help clean up your brain if you are showing signs of mental problems (people react differently to high doses of caffeine, so be aware of the side effects). If you have cholesterol problems, get it under control, now. Cinnamon gives a boost to malfunctioning insulin, allowing it to process sugar normally. Weak insulin can lead to diabetes, and can damage your brain cells. Did you know that coffee helps block cholesterol's bad effects on the brain, is anti-inflammatory and reduces the risk of depression, stroke and diabetes, which all promote dementia?

Mental exercise is just as important as physical exercise. Fill up your brain with lots of interesting stuff, like education, marriage, language skills, etc. You can actually grow your brain with lots of physical, mental and social activities. If you can join a health club and work out regularly, do it. If going for a walk after dinner is more your speed, do it. Conscientious people are better able to cope with setbacks in life, and can better dodge chronic psychological distress, which boosts risks of dementia. If you are clinically depressed, get it treated, or you are more likely to develop Alzheimer's. Symptoms that look like Alzheimer's can easily be something else (and something easily treatable). Go to a geriatric neurologist and get the right diagnosis, now.

The best way to prevent Alzheimer's is to reduce your personal risk factors, sooner rather than later. No one is expected to do everything in this book. Pick a dozen or so things that you can do every day, and stick with them. Anything that reduces the possibility of getting Alzheimer's, even by a little bit, is automatically a good thing. This book is very easy to read, and it is excellent.

Do It Yourself Business Sales Guidebook
Ben Brickweg
7760 France Avenue South, 11th Floor-Suite 1100, Bloomington, MN 55435
9781456568764 $19.95

The easy part is to decide when to sell your small business; the hard part is knowing how to do it. This book makes that process much easier to navigate.

First of all, why are you selling? If it is to get enough money to retire to Florida or Arizona (or the south of France), giving the business to your children is probably not a good idea. Get an accountant and tax attorney (if you have not already done so); you are going to need them. Obviously, keep it quiet. The last thing you want is for your employees, suppliers and/or customers to be running for the hills in panic. Get rid of all old or obsolete inventory, and give the facility a thorough cleaning.

There are several financial reports that you will need, but the two most important ones are a Balance Sheet and a Profit and Loss statement for the past several years. Make sure that they are absolutely accurate. It's tempting to fool with the "books" in order to make your business look more profitable than it really is. It's also a really bad idea; your deception will be exposed, sooner or later. Besides, showing a "down" year is not the worst thing in the world.

The book looks at things to consider when you are coming up with an asking price. You need to get on the Internet, and look up the asking price of comparable businesses that are up for sale. If your asking price is noticeably higher than the "average" price, reduce your price accordingly. You can count on a potential buyer doing the same search, and asking why they should pay more for your widget company than for a comparable widget company.

Put some time and effort into the marketing materials that will get potential buyers interested in your business. Get help if you need it. Find the right magazines and websites to place your advertisement. Keep track of everyone who shows interest. If they seem legitimate, send them a Confidential Business Plan, which gives some, but not all, details of your business, right after they sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement. If they object, they are not a legitimate buyer, and you can cross them off the list. Serious buyers know that an NDA is part of the procedure, and will have no problem in signing it.

This book covers the rest of the process, from negotiating terms of the deal (compromise is the important word), to due diligence (where you are obligated to reveal all of your business, good or bad), to ensuring a new transition to the new owners. It also comes with a number of checklists and worksheets, to make the process as painless as possible.

For anyone who is even contemplating selling their small business, this book is very highly recommended. It's easy to say that you will never sell your business; life has a way of making that decision for you. This is equally recommended for anyone thinking of buying a small business; it does a very good job of showing what the seller is thinking and seeking.

Escape the Cubicle
Mark Anthony Germanos
Smashwords, Inc.
15951 Los Gatos Blvd., Suite 16, Los Gatos, CA 95032
9781458089458 $19.95

Many books have been written about ditching your boring and unfulfilling corporate job to follow your passion. This one takes the reader through the process practically step-by-step.

Find, and join, a group of like-minded individuals, like other self-employed people. Start with your local Chamber of Commerce. The support system will help you through the rough times, and the networking possibilities could lead to customers for you. Put together a business plan, and be willing to change it as circumstances dictate. If you plan to take on investors or partners, they will want to see it.

Set a definite mission for yourself. It can be more than just one thing, but make them specific and achievable. For instance, instead of saying "Learn about computers," say "Get Microsoft A+ Certification" or "Purchase (specific software) and take a continuing education class to learn it."

No matter how unpleasant your job is, when you are at work, you owe your boss eight hours of effort. Don't give your boss a reason to fire you before you are ready to leave. Start researching the costs and availability of health insurance (group insurance, if necessary) sooner rather than later. The same goes for business liability insurance. The book also talks about things to consider if you plan on having employees, and about setting up a federal tax ID number.

A person comes up to you at some business conference and asks you what you do for a living. Do you stammer and impersonate a deer in the headlights, or do you confidently give them a one to two-minute description of your business? It's called an elevator speech. Practice it, and have it ready; you never know when you will need it. If you are one of those who lacks self-confidence when speaking in front of a group, join a group like Toastmasters International, that specializes in helping people get that self-confidence.

The author spends a lot of time talking about social media. Sign up for Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, and strongly consider a blog and/or website. Get help if necessary. Have some company that hosts websites take care of yours. It's much cheaper, and involves fewer headaches, than hosting it yourself. Also, strongly consider having your information automatically backed up offsite. Again, it's easier than doing it yourself, especially when something crashes. The book also talks about password security; there is a program to help you remember all your various passwords.

This book belongs on the reference shelf of every would-be entrepreneur in America. It contains a lot of information, and will make the process of starting a small business much less difficult than normal. Yes, it's worth reading (and making notes in the margins and highlighting).

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Richard's Bookshelf

The Word of Knowledge in Action: A Practical Guide for the Supernatural Church
Art Thomas
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768437768 $14.99

An Important Study of an Often Overlooked and Misunderstood Spiritual

"The Word of Knowledge in Action" is filled with personal stories, insights, Biblical examples and testimonies that create a hunger for more. These stories have a unique way of resonating and connecting with the reader. Art Thomas brings a comprehensive, Biblically sound, examination of the purpose and implementation of the spiritual gift "the word of knowledge." Art defines the gift of the word of knowledge, reveals the various functions of the gift of knowledge, the uses for this gift, and how to activate, enhance, and implement the gift in light of God's Word.

Each chapter contains summary questions which stimulate the reader to reflect on the material introduced, consider personal application, and action steps to be taken in response to the Holy Spirit's leading. These questions are excellent for discussion and further consideration if the book is being used in a group setting.

Individual chapters demonstrate the interrelationship and the importance of integrating the gift of the word of knowledge with other spiritual gifts including: the gifts of prophecy, visions and dreams, divine healing, deliverance, intercession, and evangelism. Within these discussions Art helps the reader understand the basic differences of each of the gifts, using a balance of Biblical exposition and theology based on a solid revelation of the Word of God.

Finer points discussed allude to the importance of the basic essential of faith, inner healing and sanctification, and experiencing an intimate encounter with God. Thomas encourages the reader to incorporate this gift as an integral resource in their everyday tools of evangelism. Thomas warns of the danger of pride as the root of ten or more potential pitfalls to be avoided when exercising the gift of knowledge.

Art's writing is fresh, empowering, practical and compelling. "The Word of Knowledge in Action" is written with feeling, passion and simplicity and gives evidence of a genuine, humble and down to earth lifestyle dedicated to putting the principles presented in this book into action personally while spreading the supernatural Kingdom message. Art has a genuine desire to impact and strengthen the reader's faith, theology, and passion for Jesus.

"The Word of Knowledge in Action: A Practical Guide for the Supernatural Church" is a book for anyone wanting to know Jesus better, be more effective in their ministry, and understand the interaction of the gift of the word of knowledge in action with other spiritual gifts.

Doctor Confidential: Secrets Behind the Veil
Richard Sheff, MD
Listen to Your Heart Press
35 South County Way, Suite D12, South Kingstown, RI 02879
9780983081906 $16.95

An Amazing Look Behind the Scenes of the Medical Profession

In "Dr. Confidential: Secrets Behind the Veil" Richard Sheff M.D. chronicles formative experiences from his years in medical school and during his residence. The book is a result of a lesson Dr. Sheff learned early in his training. " the midst of all the medical technology and pressure to master so much new clinical information" it would be easy to lose tract of his original intention "of helping others, at some level as an expression of love." It is his hope that the book will provide deeper insights into the importance of the doctor/patient relationship.

The book is divided into two main parts: Part One deals with his experiences in Medical School - The University School of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Part Two relates his residency program in family medicine experience at the Brown University in Providence R. I.

An articulate communicator, Richard Sheff captures and holds the reader's attention from his first class room experience in Gross Anatomy right through each rotation of his training as a medical student, including: Psychiatry, gynecology, obstetrics, surgery, internal medicine, and pediatrics, choosing a specialty, elective classes, and Sub internship.

Part Two includes the years of Sheff's residency, his internship, junior residency, and senior residency. He details many of his experiences treating patient's involving numerous illnesses relating to family practice.

I could identify with many of the issues that concerned Sheff. At nine years old I was admitted to a University Medical Training Hospital for a nervous disorder resulting from complications arising after having Scarlet Fever. For two month's I was the subject of the rounds being made by the medical students, interns, and staff doctors. On one occasion I was taken to an amphitheater where my case was presented to a classroom full of medical students. After presenting my case I was asked to demonstrate my writing skills and my ability to tie my hospital gown. To this day I remember the humiliation of hearing that at nine years old my skill level in those two details was at the level of a six year old. For the next four years I returned to the pediatric outpatient department for ongoing teaching exposure to go through blood tests, medical histories, and a routine of jumping on one foot, sticking out my tongue, and extending my hands to determine how steady I could hold them. At the time I was too young to question the treatment or the cure. I did move on to adulthood, married an RN who recognized and directed me to Doctor's known as being patient advocates. As a result of my excellent care and relatively good health, today I hold members of the medical profession in high esteem.

Sheff's writing is engaging, memorable, and candid. He delivers a strong message for everyone associated with or involved in the field of patient care. Dr. Sheff is sincere in his advocacy for healing patients and healing healthcare. He calls for love, courage, passion, and integrity from hospitals, physicians, and related medical professionals. "Doctor Confidential: Secrets Behind the Veil" is a timely and important book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from a representative of the author or the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's guidelines.

Spiritual Healing: The Surrender That Brings Victory
Cheryl Gnagey
Destiny Image Publisher, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768437614 $15.99

Surrender of the Heart and the Process of Christian Maturity

Cheryl Gnagey captures the essence of spiritual healing and the relationship of surrender to the victory that produces Christian growth and maturity in her book "Spiritual Healing: The Surrender That Brings Victory." Cheryl masterfully takes the reader on a path to spiritual healing through a comparison of the Tabernacle to a believer's "heart journey."

The book is divided into three sections with a logical progression: Section one takes the reader from an overview of the tabernacle right through to the Holy of Holies. Section two considers God's commands in light of our priorities, our heart, discipline, obedience, and the consequences of disobedience. Section three describes the process, the power, and the reward of complete surrender to God.

Throughout the book the author provides three visual aids to help the reader grasp an understanding of what our heart looks like: Illustrations from the Tabernacle in the Old Testament with helpful charts representing the Christian journey from the time of salvation (stepping into Christ - the door), to the time when we meet Him face to face in eternity, an illustration of our heart with breaches and cracks, and a visualization of how the layers of sin can hinder the work of the Holy Spirit until we surrender and repent.

Questions for introspection included provide the reader with in depth application, reflection, as well as a basis for study in one on one mentoring or in small group Bible studies. Additional pages are provided at the end of the book for significant permanent notes gleaned from your reading. The endnotes included with each chapter indicate the exhaustive study and research that Gnagey has put into the preparation of her work. I was impressed with the breadth and depth of her sources.

Gnagey's writing is solidly based on the scriptures, written from her heart, candidly open as she writes of her own personal spiritual journey. "Spiritual Healing: The Surrender That Brings Victory" is for anyone seeking a new intimacy with Jesus, longing for a life of meaning, healing, and victory.

The Hidden Gifts of Helping
Stephen G. Post
989 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
9780470887813 $19.95

Finding New Vistas of Happiness, Health, and Healing through Helping

A job loss forced Stephen G. Post, author of "The Hidden Gifts of Helping" and his family to relocate. He describes the personal trauma he and his family experienced through their process of leaving familiar routines and long time friends behind to begin a new life in a new community.

Post relates how he put into practice a "giving unto others" regimen or philosophy as he worked through his experience of loss during this transition. The lessons Post learned thought his personal journey are detailed in his book. Post explains the importance of a deep spirituality, a strong quiet center, creating a kind of contagion that allows other people to live better. He proposes a philosophy of "Helper Therapy" which can get us through the hard times by reaching out to others.

The prerequisites and benefits of reaching out to others or lending a helping hand include:


Intentionality and focus.

A core practice of forgiveness.

A refocus on the hidden gifts of helping.


Lowers stress levels and prevents depression.

Produces hope wrapped up in faith.

Creates new life - a reinventing of ourselves.

Each chapter includes a highlighted "Finding Your Own Hidden Gifts" feature, containing a challenge with step by step suggestions for implementing practical actions which will produce a life which reaps the benefits and rewards of implementing "The Hidden Gifts of Helping."

I was challenged to finding sacred places everywhere, a quiet place of prayer, or a place to pause and reflect. I was encouraged to actively pursue the disciplines recommended by Post. I thoroughly enjoyed the inspirational anecdotes, stories that further illustrated the personal benefits that accompany reaching out to help meet the needs of others. I can only wish I had read Post's book two years ago when we made a major relocation ourselves. Without realizing the significance of how it was helping we intuitively put into practice some of the principles Post has affirmed for us through his proposals.

Post's writing conveys insight, compassion, and a practical approach to meeting the challenges of transition of any kind.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from a representative of the author or the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's guidelines.

Quest for the Nail Prints
Don Furr
Sheaf House Publishers, LLC
3641 Hwy 47 N., Charlotte, TN 37036
9781936438020 $15.99

A Time Travel Novel - A Journey to Jerusalem with Christ during Passion Week

"Quest for the Nail Prints" is a time travel novel with a supernatural intervention in the lives of the three protagonists, Elizabeth Stewart, a resident physician, and Pastor Paul Ryann, both from Memphis, and Professor Leonardo Van Eaton from George Town University.

Unrelated Circumstances bring the three together on an International air flight going to Jerusalem. The professor found himself stranded in Jerusalem when his connecting flight for India was canceled. The physician's assignment was not scheduled to begin for three days. Paul Ryann, the minister, was fulfilling a lifetime dream of visiting the Holy land.

The three joined signed up for a local bus tour for a day of sight seeing in the city of Jerusalem. At the first scenic stop the bus made, Ryann witnessed a criminal act. Soon the trio found themselves in life threatening danger. Suddenly they discovered they were in the midst of a mysterious experience taking them back in time to a Jerusalem at the beginning of Passion Week. They became players with the twelve apostles in the upper room, participating in the last supper with Jesus.

The story that follows takes Dr. Stewart and Pastor Ryann on a spiritual journey with Jesus for the entire Passion Week right up to Calvary. Professor Van Eaton ventures out on an adventure that leads him in another direction.

Reading "Quest for the Nail Prints" became a memorable experience for me. The teachings of Jesus took on a new meaning as the Holy Spirit used Don Furr to bring his Words to the page in a new way as I was transported back in time to follow Jesus and the disciples on the final days leading to Golgotha and the Crucifixion. I found that although I was transfixed by the story line, and Furr's writing I had to take time outs for assimilation and reflection on the purpose behind the message of cross. This is a book that will long linger in my thoughts in a way that will have an impact on my reading of the scriptures in the days, weeks, months, and years to come.

"Quest for the Nail Prints" is an unusual time travel novel with a focus on melding plot, character development, theme, and suspense. Don Furr has a remarkable gift for story telling and riveting writing that leads to a supernatural encounter with Jesus.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes with no obligation to post a positive review.

Christ among the Dragons: Finding Our Way through Cultural Changes
James Emery White
Inter Varsity Press
P. O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515
978083833122, $17.00

A Call to Christians to Become Active Transformative Agents in Today's Culture

"Christ among the Dragons: Finding Our Way through Cultural Changes" is timely with an important message for Evangelical Christian leader, Clerical and lay alike. In a clarion call for polarization and unity James Emery White addresses four important issues facing the Christian church today: The nature of truth and orthodoxy (the loss of absolutes, Cultural engagement and the evangelistic enterprise, (transformative agents actively engaged versus functional retreat) Christian community and civility, and the identity and character of the church.

In his overview of what is happening in the in the evangelical church White reminds the reader of the role Jesus describes as being the Salt of the Earth. He likens the role of the pastor as one being charged with "shepherding a community." He calls attention to the departure from those things that originally bonded evangelicals together: A network of common social concerns and Para church organizations, and a strong spokesperson uniting evangelical Christians in the cause of evangelism. White maintains the importance of adhering to tradition and principle and being grounded in the scriptures while taking a more aggressive stance in becoming culturally relevant.

White writes with genuine conviction as he leads the reader to a hunger for a deeper engagement in Christ thought as demonstrated within the members of his own church. I appreciate his articulate, intellectual approach in writing. He understands today's culture and man's inner needs, truth and orthodoxy. He boldly takes a stand on the importance of uniting in an intentional global effort of reaching out with love and grace in a renewed effort of taking the message and mission of the gospel to a new generation.

James Emery White reweaves the relevance of truth, theology, and relevance into the every day fabric of the church in his book "Christ among the Dragons." An important and timely message.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes with no obligation to post a positive review.

Richard R. Blake

Riva's Bookshelf

Out of Fear
Don Hutcheson
Don Hutcheson
9781453710548, $17.95, Kindle ASIN B004XRAKG0, $9.99,

Out of Fear by Don Hutcheson is the tale of Will Stallworth, an advertising executive returning to his home state of Georgia to take the job of his dreams, but just when things should be the brightest they've ever been for Will his life begins to slowly unravel.

Will is haunted by nightmares of his brother's suicide years before. His relationship with his parents is stressed. His mother is a paragon in his eyes, a perfectly aged Southern grand dame of a mother who represents the finest qualities of Southern women everywhere: grace, poise and irrefutable dignity presented in a solidly middle class life touched by loss and sorrow. His father, well that's another story entirely. Whereas Will's mother is kind, graceful and accommodating, Will's father is harsh, cold and distant as the lunar landscape. But mortality calls to everyone and it's time for Will's father to pass beyond this life into whatever is on the other side. Instead of drawing this family closer together Will's father, Donald's, impending death puts even more pressure on Will and draws the simmering cauldron of Will's repressed rage toward his father closer to surface. Instead of reconciliation this deathbed scene will be filled with recriminations and words harsh enough to scar a man's soul.

Hutcheson's main character Will Stallworth is complex and interesting. At times Hutcheson gets too caught up in narration, but the story is still a rich one taking you behind the scenes of the advertising world and the pressure it puts on people. How one deal can make or break an entire career. How one misstep in the very public limelight of the advertising world can spell ruin and how sometimes a man's worst enemy can be the very person who was once his friend and confidant.

Out of Fear is Will's story, with everyone else acting as secondary players on the canvas of Will's life and impending breakdown. He has few people he would consider allies, even fewer he would consider friends. He faces the worst of things on his own, beginning to come around only when he is finally able to see he can help someone else who he does considers a friend. It is this friendship, as well as Stallworth's own redeveloping sense of self-worth that gives Will the courage he needs to begin rebuilding his shattered life.

Told from the male perspective the sex in Out of Fear is raw. There is no painting it pretty, dressing it up and calling it love. It is quite simply robust sex between two consenting adults who have no need to play adolescent games of love. It is self-serving seeking its own pleasure and it is about as raw, vulgar and truthful as it gets. Hutcheson called it erotic but in an email conversation with him I pointed out this definitely didn't leave me turned out, in fact it had the opposite effect as it was so geared toward the male perspective of sex and there was no representation of the female point of view in the act, other than as a partner for the male. As Will points out, sex between consenting adults is fun, but a slightly more rounded perspective could have added volumes to the book in this aspect.

I have mixed reactions to Out of Fear by Don Hutcheson. It wasn't my personal cup of tea, but I can acknowledge that another reader might really enjoy it. It is well-crafted, my only complaints being too much time spent in the narrative style and too many stereotypical characters, but, this is Will's story and because of that I'm not certain how well-developed certain other characters needed to be. In the end, Hutcheson tells an interesting story despite the few flaws I found with it so I would say that if you are interested in psychological thrillers then go ahead and give Out of Fear a try.

All told Out of Fear is a reasonably good read. As previously noted, some of the characters are flat and predictable. The mother is a paragon of virtue, the father a walking, talking creep and the dead brother is keeping a secret that haunts Will throughout the story. Will and his sister are thick as thieves; they had to be to survive life in their house after their brother killed himself. His co-workers are either driven or tormented with nary a single sane soul among them. But by the final pages Will just might find something he didn't even realize he was looking for, justification, release and redemption. Maybe he'll find all three; we'll have to wait for future books by Hutcheson to find out.

Take No More
Seb Kirby
Amazon Kindle
ASIN B004EYUH9C, $2.99

Take No More by Seb Kirby is a wonderful book by a promising author. From the first pages Take No More held me enthralled and it delivered on every promise it made. It is a rich story set with a complex tapestry of characters and setting. It is the tale of a man whose wife dies unexpectedly in his arms, a victim of a murder. Determined to find her killer he sets off across Europe in a race against time to find her killer. Along the way the story takes more than a few unexpected turns as the writer goes draws you further and further into a world of art theft, drug dealers, toxic waste dumping, sexual slavery and mob bosses. It is a tale of murder and intrigue and it is artfully told.

My only complaint about Take No More is that twice it managed to break the suspension of disbelief necessary to fiction. Both incidents involved the name of one of the main characters. In the first instance it was a simple misspelling - a case where obviously the writer had been so caught up in telling his story that his fingers had simply moved to fast. This mistake was easy to overlook, as were minor grammar errors, but what really threw me for a loop was when, near the end of the book, the writer got the name of one of the main characters completely wrong. I was so upset I couldn't believe it! Who forgets the name of one of the main characters after telling most of the story? I was stunned. All I could think about for the next couple of chapters was how the writer had forgotten the name of one of the most important characters in the book.

But having said that, I have to add that Take No More is an absolutely stunning thriller from a new author, I can't remember the last murder mystery I read that was so good. It was intricate, rich in setting and details and in part based on some really fascinating facts. I thought it was excellent and I can honestly guarantee that I will re-read it at some point in the future and will treasure my copy with the error in it because when it comes time for a re-release, which given the excellence of this story I'm certain will happen, I will have one of the priceless originals with the error intact.

Well done Mr. Kirby, I applaud your brilliant storytelling.

The Dream Merchant Saga Book One: The Magic Crystal
L. T. Suzuki
Privately Published
9780986724008, $13.25

The Dream Merchant Saga Book One: The Magic Crystal is an absolutely delightful journey into a fantasy land peppered with magical beings, great and small. Nia and Lorna Suzuki bring the characters of The Dream Merchant Saga Book One: The Magic Crystal to vivid life with their wonderful sense of character and use of voice. I found myself caught up in this tale from the first pages and eagerly looking forward to my chance to read it each night.

Princess Rose-alyn Beatrice Elizabeth Wilhemina Pepperton, or simply Princess Rose, is a snobbish, stuck-up, spoiled princess who foolishly decides to capture the Tooth Fairy. So the tale of Princess Rose and her friends Tagius Oliver Yairet and Cankles Mayron begins. It is a tale of grand proportions that will have you laughing out loud at the wonderful adventures the characters have and the great dialogue that flies between them. It was the best time I've had reading a book in ages.

Princess Rose is as haughty as can be but she must face the world with two "commoners" when she finds herself turned out of the palace as the result of a curse. Tagius, or Tag as he is better known, was the Princess' truest friend before she kept him from pursuing his dream of knighthood by ordering him to become her personal jester. Now, the Princess must face a strange world she is totally unprepared for with only Tag and the strange commoner Cankles Mayron at her side. Cankles seems as simple as can be, but is he really? He gallantly volunteers to join their quest for Rose's hidden heart so Rose can break the Tooth Fairy's curse and return to her rightful place in Pepperton Palace, a sacrifice on his part that is completely unappreciated by Princess Rose who doesn't really understand just how perilous their journey might be. It will require all of Tag's wits and skills to see Rose safely through her quest. Is it even possible to recover her missing heart?

I offer my highest recommendation to The Dream Merchant Saga Book One: The Magic Crystal. Everyone, from youngsters to adults will enjoy this story that brings a wonderful fairy tale to vivid life within its pages. It should be on your list of titles you must read; it will probably be the most fun you'll ever have reading a book.

Trojan Horse
David Lender
Privately Published
B004JF4J54 $0.99 at

Trojan Horse by David Lender is a deeply involved story of terrorism, industrial espionage and intrigue taking place across the Saudi Arabia, Europe, the Middle East, and the United States. It involves a rich cast of characters who are very well developed and who remain in your memory long after you read the last page. It contains multiple plot twists and is so believable it is scary.

In Trojan Horse David Lender offers an unusual glimpse into the Muslim mind, both the good aspects and the bad ones. The people who honor the good they are taught, and who try to be stewards of the resources they have in trust for their people and the people who breed discontent and militant thought and stances in their followers.

I was really impressed with the quality of the storytelling in Trojan Horse. It is a rich and complex story that has to be carefully followed but the author weaves together all the varying aspects of the story quite artfully. I found myself absorbed in the story almost immediately and I read it through as quickly as could and still take in all the necessary details. I found my heart thundering in many places and nearly breaking in a few others but the story never failed to keep me absorbed.

I highly recommend Trojan Horse. It is a rich, compelling story. It is filled with well-developed tension. It is full of mystery and intrigue and interesting characters. It will hold your attention from start to finish and the story, as I already noted is realistic enough to be scary. It could happen and that's part of what makes this such a compelling book to read. I couldn't put it down and I think you'll experience the same desire to see how the story unfolds to the exclusion of other activities. All my reading time, plus all my precious "free time" went into reading this book. I quite literally couldn't put it down.

It is simply spellbinding.

Tracy M. Riva

Sandra's Bookshelf

The Hambledown Dream
Dean Mayes
ireadiwrite Publishing
5195 Central Avenue, Delta BC V47K 2H1 Canada
9781926760278 $3.99 ebook 9781926760339 $15.95 print

As a reviewer, if I say I will review a book then I do so no matter what. I started reading this book and thought to myself what a mistake I have made. The language is vulgar and some sexual escapade's . The main character is a young man named Andy DeVrie who is a drug dealer and courier. One night he over dose's on drugs. He had flat line in the hospital, and after using the paddles four times the doctors were able to bring him back to life.

Then a strange thing begins to happen. Andy begins to change the way he lives. Even his eye color changes from brown to green. He has these dreams of a woman and the life he had with her. He feels another presence within himself and the woman in his dreams calls him Denny.

He stopped selling and doing drugs. He paid a high price for doing so. He was beat within an inch of his life. The one thing that Andy loved more than anything was playing his guitar. He was a student at a prestigious Conservatory for classical guitar, and if not for one teacher he would have been kicked out.

Andy played technically correct, but it is with the help of Denny he learns to feel the music. To become one with his guitar and let the music take him to different places.

This book is a lovely love story between a man and a woman. But it is also about the magic of music. I can honestly say I felt the music and enjoyed this book. I played violin for years, so it was easy for me to envision what Andy/Denny felt as he played. To lose yourself and everything around you until the music fades away.

Sacred Secrets, A Jacody Ives Mystery
Linda S. Prather
Create Space
7290 Investment Drive, North Charleston, SC 29418
9781456517489 $14.98 -- Digital $0.99 1-843-760-8000

This is one of the most fascinating books I have ever had the pleasure of reading. After reading the author's first book "The Gifts, A Jacody Ives Mystery," I did not feel like the next book could top it. But what I found was Ms. Prather is one of the most gifted writers of our times.

In the second installment of the "Jacody Ives Mystery," the author takes us deeper into the depths of Jacody and Gavin. One person, with two different personalities.

I am so glad that the author has included some of the characters from the first book that I liked. The new ones are just as engaging. The elements of the supernatural, add to the suspense of this story.

I would also like to commend Charles W. Prather, Jr. for the poetry he has written in this book. He shows great promise as well.

Prisoner and Survivor
Brian Kittrell
Late Nite Books
P.O. Box 321, Brandon, MS 39042
9780982949580 ebook

Once again the author has managed to capture my attention right from the start. The author's ability of developing characters that are interesting, and with quick shifts of focus, he is able to move the story along to keep readers eager to turn to the next page.

With each installment of the series we are introduced to a variety of different characters. What I have enjoyed with this book is that the two main characters are so different from the other characters you will find in the first two books of the series.

We are introduced to William who is convicted of murdering his wife and her lover. He is in prison waiting to see if he gets life in prison, or the death penality. He is able to escape when the zombies enter the jail. Then William meets Edgar who had terminal cancer but somehow survived. Together they team up to head west, as William keeps hearing a voice that says go west.

This book is so much more than I can tell you in a review. I can only say buy this book for yourself if you want to know the rest of the story.

Sandra Heptinstall

Suzie's Bookshelf

Praying for Your Future Husband - Preparing Your Heart for His
Robin Jones Gunn and Tricia Goyer
WalterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group
12265 Oracle Blvd. Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781601423481 $13.99

In every single Christian's life they dream of the day in which they will meet that special person to share their life with. For some, it seems that day will never come. They seek that special someone who God has selected to come into their life and be able to walk through their lives hand in hand.

Praying for Your Future Husband - Preparing Your Heart for His was written by two friends Robin Jones Gunn and Tricia Goyer. Both were eager to find their mate, but thought it was taking longer than they anticipated meeting "The One".

Believing in their strong Christian faith, Robin and Tricia invited God into their prayers to help search out the person that was to be their future mate. They found that once that put their heart into turning their future love life over to the Lord that their faith and devotion would be enough for the Lord to lead the man of their dreams into their lives.

Robin and Tricia prayer routine strengthened their faith in God and also relieved them of a burden of worrying when they would find that special someone. They were not shy about asking the Lord to hear their wants and needs.

In Praying for Your Future Husband - Preparing Your Heart for His Robin and Tricia share their knowledge of how they put their faith in the Lord and he lead them to their future husbands. They also include inspirational Bible verses, prayers, and practical applications that will appeal to any single Christian woman.

Being single, I was immediately drawn to the concept of praying for your future husband. I hope that with the knowledge I gained in this book and my faith in the Lord, that I will be able to one day soon be one of their success stories.

Prayer Walk - Becoming a Woman of Prayer, Strength, & Discipline
Janet Holm McHenry
WalterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group
12265 Oracle Blvd. Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781578563760 $13.99

New Year's resolutions are often made in haste, and then are forgotten shortly after the first of the year. To the Christian woman, her goals often include "more pray time" and "exercise". Often, these two resolutions fall short because life has a way of interfering and taking a person away from achieving their goal.

Thirteen years ago, author Janet Holm McHenry felt her life was out of control. She was overweight, and found she was on the verge of depression. Her busy schedule didn't allow her to spend any time on herself improvement. As it kept getting harder to simplest tasks, she knew that she had to do something to regain her life.

Janet came up with the idea to devote the first hour of each day to a daily walk. In this time, she would pray for her family. Throughout the weeks, she discovered others who needed her prayers; she added their names to her walking prayer routine. In as little as a month, she found that she was more ease with her life, and had developed a renewed feeling of purpose.

Janet knew that her morning pray walks were changing her both mentally and physically. She felt it was like God was guiding her to keep up with the workout routine. She felt that if it could help her, then surely there was someone else in the world that needed her newfound knowledge.

Though the pages of Prayer Walk - Becoming a Woman of Prayer, Strength, & Discipline Janet reveals all of the details of the program that changed her life. What I found so amazing is that she even covered the basics of what type of shoes to wear, and some essential warm up and cool down stretches. This added bonus will be a lifesaver to someone who is new to any type of fitness program.

Prayer Walk - Becoming a Woman of Prayer, Strength, & Discipline is a book that all Christian women should add to their must read list. It has the power to not only get you in top physical shape, but also deepen your spiritual relationship. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is seeking a program that can offer both a mental and physical relaxation.

Suzie Housley

Theodore's Bookshelf

Secrets to the Grave
Tami Hoag
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780525951926 $26.95 800-847-5515,

While this novel is a sequel to "Deeper than the Dead," featuring many of its characters, in what is now a series, the book stands alone as a murder mystery on its own. It takes place in a small California community in which a young artist, Marissa Fordham, and her four-year-old daughter have settled. She is supported by a rich dowager who is a control freak.

Marissa is killed by multiple stab wounds and the child nearly murdered by strangulation, with multiple suspects to be sorted by the Sheriff's Office, and particularly detective Tony Mendez, profiler Vince Leone and his wife, Anne Navarre, who becomes the child's protector. Piecing the story together is like peeling an onion, layer by layer.

The author has created the framework of a successful, continuing series, written with developing characters and evolving plots. No need to add additional praise.

Highly recommended.

The Attenbury Emeralds
Jill Paton Walsh
Minotaur Books
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312674540 $25.99 646-307-5560

I have a confession to make: I never read any of the Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane mysteries. As a result, I suppose, I can approach this novel without any prejudice about the originals written by a legendary author, the redoubtable Dorothy L. Sayers. And I can firmly state that I have been remiss and must hasten to correct my past negligence.

The author undoubtedly undertook a dream assignment: to bring closure to the series with this concluding work, bringing Lord Peter full circle to recount his first "detective" assignment and finally bringing the ultimate mystery successfully to a conclusion. Initially, Lord Peter undertook to find the missing Attenbury Emeralds which seemed to disappear during an engagement party. This novel, however, traces further mysteries surrounding the gems through several decades before, during and after World War II.

I have, of course, no way of knowing how authentic the tone of the book or development of the characters is compared to the originals, but I suspect they are completely compatible. The dialogue, deliberately stilted to simulate upper crust English society, is really touching, and, of course, the interaction between Peter and Harriet poignant.

Highly recommended.

Junkyard Dogs
Craig Johnson
Penguin, 375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780143119531 $14.00 800-847-5515

The Walt Longmire series reaches its sixth entry, and judging by the various physical damage the Absaroka County, WY, sheriff absorbs during this episode, one wonders if he can last much longer. He is bitten by a vicious dog in the rear end, suffers from a torn retina, is almost run over by a tow truck and almost shot, among other dangers to his body. Not to mention other injuries, from events in prior series books, some of which have yet to heal.

Common to a Longmire mystery are a series of incidents, which by themselves may not seem important or are just plain hilarious, but usually add up to be interrelated clues to a baffling case to be solved. "Junkyard Dogs" is no different. First Walt is called to the scene of a bizarre accident in which the owner of a junkyard, George "Geo" Stewart, has been dragged two and one-quarter miles tied behind a car driven by his daughter-in-law. After which Geo tells Walt he has found a severed thumb in a Styrofoam cooler.

Then there is the rest of the Stewart clan, son Duane, the aforementioned daughter-in-law Gina, and the Stewart "mansion" with its secret tunnel. Not to mention the developer, Ozzie Dobbs, who would like to have the Stewart junkyard and the adjacent town dump moved far away from his nearby real estate development. And the owner of the severed thumb. All inter-related and keeping Walt and his deputies hopping.

Typical of a Longmire novel are the well-drawn descriptions of the mountains, frigid Wyoming temperatures, and the snow. And more snow. The novel is well-drawn and eminently readable, with the regular cast of characters, undersheriff Vic Moretti, long-time buddy Henry Standing Bear, and, of course, Dog, companion and savior.


Frozen Assets
Quentin Bates
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781569478677 $25.00 212-260-1900

This English-born first-time author, who splits his time between Iceland and England, undertook to write this murder mystery around a contemporary idea: the collapse of Iceland's monetary and banking system [which to date has not recovered], coupled with massive political corruption. As a murder mystery it works fairly well for an initial effort. On the other hand, the economic/political aspect left, to this reader, much to be desired.

The novel is written with two voices. Interspersed with a fairy well-written mystery are a series of "blogs," gossipy items that were supposed to supply background and set the stage for the story, but which are more confusing than helpful in moving the plot forward. Some good editing or rewriting might have salvaged the effort, but more likely just eliminating them and using narrative might have been more effective.

A small town policewoman doggedly chases a three-time murderer while effectively being hamstrung by higher-ups. The murderer is an employee of an international aluminum company in partnership with a corrupt minister and his wife, the head of a public relations agency and front for the insiders who seek to profit from a new plant and hydroelectric facility. It's too bad; the novel could have been up there with the best of Icelandic and Scandinavian books, but falls too short. But, hey, the author shows promise, and we'll probably hear from him again.

On Borrowed Time
David Rosenfelt
Minotaur Books
9780312598365 $24.99

This is a potboiler of a novel, the author's third standalone. He is remembered most fondly for his Andy Carpenter series and admired for his home for sick and injured dogs. He has now turned his creative self to a sort of sci-fi mystery in which journalist Richard Kilmer lives in both a real and a fantasy world.

Without giving the plot away, it is safe to say the story relies on the reader to suspend disbelief in some ways. Richard is set up to believe what someone wants him to in order to prove the success of an experiment in mind manipulation. On the other hand, it becomes quite obvious that the more he is channeled in a specific manner, the more he acts contrary to direction, somewhat opposite to what one would expect.

In any event, the novel progresses to almost a soap opera type of conclusion, detracting, in my view, from an otherwise over-all pretty high standard. That is not to say that I have a better idea, or that the ending is not warranted, at least on the level of what went before. That said, the book is, for the most part, good fun, and recommended.

Though Not Dead
Dana Stabenow
Minotaur Books
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312559113 $25.99 646-307-5560,

Nearly a century's worth of Alaskan history serves as the backdrop for this latest Kate Shugak novel, as witnessed by the long life of "Old Sam," her uncle. When he dies at the age of nearly 90, he leaves Kate as his only legatee, with instructions for gifts to a few, and a letter telling her to "find my father," setting her on a dangerous wild goose chase seeking a long lost native icon, a map which might disclose some information pertaining to the mystery of its disappearance and whereabouts, among other objectives.

It seems Sam's father was a ne'er-do-well who stole the icon along with a lot of other items during the flu epidemic following World War I, when few were physically able to defend themselves or their possessions, and sold them to an antique dealer in Seattle. Sam attempted to find the icon to return it to his tribe (his mother was the daughter of a tribal chief).

The novel follows Kate's attempts to unravel the various "clues" Old Sam leaves for her, facing dangerous competition from others seeking the valuables he left behind. It is an exciting journey, and the novel is well worth reading, and is recommended.

Fatal Error
J.A. Jance
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781416563815 $25.99 800-223-2336,

The Ali Reynolds series usually has the protagonist solving some kind of mystery, and this one is no exception. However, the reader has to put up with a slow beginning, describing Ali's experiences during her training at the Police Academy. When she completes the course, she is furloughed for budgetary reasons, so does not become a cop. Instead, it gives her time to help solve a kidnapping and murders. So who needs a badge?

It all starts when her friend Brenda Riley, who, like Ali, was a TV anchorwoman also let go by her station, asks for help in obtaining information about a man to whom she is "engaged," although they have never met except in cyberspace. Ali enlists the aid of her boyfriend's business associate, who gets damning information on the person, setting off a chain of events that gets Brenda kidnapped [not a spoiler] and Ali involved in assisting a homicide detective in solving a murder.

From the slow start, the pace of the plot picks up to a very exciting finish. There really is never any doubt on where the story is headed, but the writing is so good one just keeps gobbling it up.


The Devotion of Suspect X
Keigo Higashino
Minotaur Books
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312375065 $24.99 646-307-5560,

Cleverly pitting the logic of a mathematician against that of a physicist, and then the physicist vs. an intuition-leaning detective, this Japanese novelist has written a clever murder mystery with an innovative ending.

There is no mystery as to the murderer: A single mother, aided by her daughter, strangles her abusive ex-husband. What then follows provides us with a chess match between her next door neighbor, a mathematician, who undertakes to create a scenario to provide the two women with iron-clad alibis, and a detective and his logic-leaning physicist friend, who analyzes each possible clue. It is an interesting technique, and one that works well.

This is the author's first major English publication (he is a big seller in Japan, where more than 2 million copies of the book have been sold), and the translation seems to have been made with the formality of the original language in mind. "Devotion" won the Naoki Prize for Best Novel, the Japanese equivalent of the National Book Award. Deservedly. And it is, here, heartily recommended.

Silent Mercy
Linda Fairstein
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780525952022 $26.95 800-847-5515

This deeply researched series highlighting New York landmarks featuring Alexandra Cooper and Mike Chapman takes the reader in a somewhat different direction from previous entries. This time the author tackles religion, albeit in a non-controversial manner.

While New York continues to be the prime real estate, the murderer the duo is chasing has committed the same crime in other states, ending up on Cape Cod. But various religious institutions set the stage for the chase as the culprit leaves his victims on display at various churches, apparently making a statement. And Alex and Mike visit a couple of leading teaching institutions undergoing a crash course in various religions and beliefs in an effort to learn what the murderer is attempting to say.

As usual, the reader learns a lot about the streets and history of New York City, always an important part of reading a novel in the series. But equally important is the tightly written mystery and analytical approach to solving it. This author's books are always a delight to read and this newest one, as all her prior novels, is recommended.

Theodore Feit

Valentina's Bookshelf
RW Bennett
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781461080664 $12.55

A mystery about an online matchmaking service with too much success, a promising premise for an interesting book. One, that fortunately, did not disappoint.

This is a fun book. The plot is fast paced, yet carefully constructed to tie in a number of seemingly unrelated storylines that provide a good background to the main character, Marsha. She is a dynamic business woman suffering under Paul Latimer's unrequited love, a love that is as violent as it is obsessive. I do wish we'd seen a few more dimensions to Marsha's personality, but I can't complain too much, she was fun to read.

Paul is represented better, elevating him from just a "bad guy" to a "complicated guy". It's hard to cheer for him, but we can at least feel his twinges of romantic dissatisfaction.

What I enjoyed the most were the chapters of's creation, all the minutia that is so cleverly introduced into the story. You'd think that the steps to putting a business together, the marketing tricks, etc. would be boring to read about, but on the contrary, they make for some really entertaining sections.

There is an aura of tension throughout the whole book, that makes the reader pay attention, waiting for the violence to start. And it does.

The only real issue I have with the book is the ending. In my opinion, it felt a bit rushed. Everything gets resolved in the space of two pages, so suddenly that I had to reread them to catch what happens. A bit more suspense would have fit the careful story better.

Other than that, this is a very entertaining book. I spent a good bunch of hours reading it and I can recommend it to everyone who enjoys a good mystery.

Whom God Would Destroy
Commander Pants
9780578018898 $13.86

Once in a while, you pick up a book without really knowing what to expect. You understand the basic plot, but there's just no way of anticipating if you'll love it or hate it.

This is one of those books. And I loved it.

It is a grab-bag of bizarre characters, from a Triscuit loving "God" to an alien race that is obsessed with Big Macs, there is just no way of really capturing the essence in these pages. The story, although seemingly scattered, fits together nicely, leaving no major loose ends. The characters are all lovable and outrageous, making the reader wish they had a few of them in his or her life to brighten up the mornings.

I found no cataclysmic grammar mistakes or spelling oopses, which is a breath of fresh air when it comes to independently published books, so do not be deterred on that front.

Ok, the story is irreverent, snarky, and if you're seriously religious, firmly planted on the blasphemous side. But it is delightful, and a quick read. I had a blast in its pages and I can easily recommend it to those of you out there who like a little peanut-butter-nuttiness with your religion.

Valentina Cano

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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